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Researching Within-Household Distribution: Overview, Developments, Debates, and Methodological Challenges


Department of Social Policy and Intervention, 32 Wellington Square, Oxford OX1 2ER, England (


Research into intrahousehold finances challenges key assumptions about the family as a unitary whole, investigates the extent of sharing within it, examines mechanisms of control and allocation of resources, and reveals the personalized nature of different monies. This article presents an overview of research on within-household distribution (understood as both outcome and process). It discusses major questions addressed, including inequalities between (gendered) individuals and the potential reasons for these. It outlines significant developments and debates, within qualitative research in particular, in relation to the unit of analysis (traditionally, the married couple), the texture and meaning of financial dealings within couples, and the tensions between autonomy and equal sharing as values. It then discusses several key methodological challenges, and concludes by highlighting some policy implications of central research messages. Throughout, it draws on and discusses the other articles in this special section, which explore key methodological issues in researching within-household distribution.