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Gendered Relational Work: How gender shapes money attitudes and expectations of young adults


We link the theory of gender performance to the perspective on the social meaning of money and relational work. Using longitudinal Panel Study of Income Dynamics data on young adult women and men, ages 18 through 24 in the US, we examine survey responses to different money-related situations. We question the expected gender-typical meanings of money, offering a more contextual understanding. Specifically, we find that when asked about the present, young women express that they worry more frequently about money than men do. However, when asked about the future–likelihood of having difficulty with financially supporting one’s family and likelihood of having a job that pays well–we find no significant gender differences. Instead, we find expressions of optimism rather than worry by young women and men alike. These results hold when controlling for psychological dispositions, financial obligations, and demographics. Overall, we note the importance of contextually situating ‘gender effects’ in relation to money matters, and call for more sociological research that places gender performance centrally into the analyses of economy and examines gendered relational work across different time orientations.

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