Pocket Money: Why The Gender Pay Gap Starts Early

New findings show that girls are likely to receive 20% less pocket money than boys.

Pocket money

by Louise Burke |
Published on

Modern parenting is no easy ride. If you’re not grappling with guilt over the work/childcare struggle, you’re panicking about just how much beige food is acceptable for their tea. Or maybe you’re being too much like a Tiger mum-like? Or is it dolphin?

Now a new study has put another parental problem on the radar - and it’s a serious one. A new study by Starling Bank has uncovered a glaring gender inequality that occurs in early years - one which could possibly explain why we have a gender pay gap today. The findings show that girls are likely to receive 20% less pocket money than boys.

The study discovered that from a young age, boys ask what they want for their pocket money and will earn it as a reward for academic achievement or manual chores like gardening or washing the car. Whereas girls are more likely to receive their pocket money for house chores (14% more girls are rewarded for traditional ‘home making’ chores like cooking and washing the dishes than boys).

I have to admit - and I'm not sure how this has happened – but my 7-year-old daughter is constantly haranguing me to pay her a pound to tidy her room or wash the dishes.

So, why are these old-fashioned gender tropes still sticking? And does this mean the fight against the gender pay gap is a losing battle?

Tim Jay, Professor of Psychology of Education, University of Loughborough, who was involved in the study says: ‘The Gender Pay Gap starts early. As girls are starting off on the back foot, this will have a long-term impact on how they align money with the value of their work.’

It’s clear conversations need to change. Interestingly, it’s not only about how much the kids are paid and what for, but also how. Starling’s Chief Banking Officer and family finance expert Helen Bierton says that one in ten parents are more likely to talk to boys about money from a young age, which, she says, ‘puts them at an advantage when it comes to financial literacy development. Boys are also more likely to get their pocket money digitally (8% more than girls), while girls are more likely to be given cash, meaning boys are more experienced in using payment systems typically used today.

‘Lower levels of financial literacy are associated with worse financial outcomes, including experience of debt, high-cost borrowing, compulsive spending and poor mortgage choices,’ warns Helen.

The study’s experts have also coined the term, ‘The Gender Play Gap’ for their Make Pocket Equal campaign, which launched in October 2022. That's because not only do their findings relate to unequal pocket money, but also your daughter’s limited spending power in the toyshop.

Thinking of picking up some duplo for your kid’s Christmas box? You might want to think twice about what colour scheme you’re going for. For the pink set labelled with a cute pink bunny pic on the front, expect to pay 5% more than the primary colour coded set.

While you might be familiar with the diabolical 'pink tax' we are forced to pay on everyday items simply due to our gender, what you might not have been so aware of is that you’ve been paying this pink tax all your life - while also receiving less pocket money to start with. Shocking, right?

In an audit of 450 toys, games and books aimed at 4-11 year olds from six retailers earlier this year, Starling found that some retailers do a good job of marketing their toys as gender-neutral, but there are still some big players who are cashing in on the pinkified products.

So what’s the answer? ‘Once you see the difference in gender merchandising and pricing, you start to see it everywhere,' says Helen. 'Encourage children to look beyond which aisle the toys are in or whether girls or boys are on the packaging, and just think about what they really want and whether they really need it.’

Just chatting with your kids about money - you can skip APRs and rising mortgage rates for now - you will be arming your child with life-long skills. Children who receive regular pocket money from their parents had a 25% higher financial literacy score than those who didn’t, the study found.

‘The fact is, there is no standard financial literacy curriculum across the UK, and it isn’t on the primary curriculum in England, so it’s really important that parents can be in a position to teach their children about money at home,' says Helen.

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