Start Inequality Young: Even Kids’ Allowances Can’t Escape The Frustrating Gender Pay Gap

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I have two boys, and they are far too young to receive an allowance yet. But believe you me, an allowance and allotted chores are definitely on my radar. For starters, it will take the burden off me because I hate unloading the dishwasher with the fire of a thousand suns. Chores for our boys in the future will also promote the atmosphere of equality in our house, where my husband and I share all the childcare and housework 50/50.

Upon researching children’s allowances, the outlook isn’t so good. According to a new Junior Achievement survey, more boys get an allowance compared to girls: 70 percent versus 60 percent.

It’s not likely because boys do more chores. One study found that girls do two more hours of housework a week than boys, while boys spend twice as much time playing. The same study confirmed that boys are still more likely to get paid for what they do: they are 15 percent more likely to get an allowance for doing chores than girls. A 2009 survey of children ages 5 to 12 found that far more girls are assigned chores than boys. A study in Europe also found fewer boys contribute to work around the house.

Sadly, that’s not all. Boys earn more allowance on average. One study revealed that boys spent only 2.1 hours a week on chores with a total payout of $48. Girls did housework at 2.7 hours a week on average with total earnings of $45. Meaning, boys made 15 percent more than girls for doing the same chores.

I don’t have girls, but I can only imagine this would be an outrage for mothers with daughters. Not only is there a wage gap for young girls when it comes to children’s allowances, but the same wage gap continues when young women enter the workforce.

Ugh, even male babysitters make more money than female babysitters, though girls are more likely to babysit. Another troubling point to consider is the fact that more and more families are relying on a woman’s wages as the breadwinner. When women are paid less than men, single-income families are bound to struggle.

I don’t have an overall solution to this issue, but I do have two sons, and I recognize that change starts at home. I always planned to break the housewife pattern my husband and I grew up with in the 1980s. Now I have even more incentive to make my sons work for their pay.

(Image:Β Pavel L Photo and Video/Shutterstock)


  1. Kendra

    April 24, 2014 at 9:36 am

    I’m struggling to understand if these studies were done on families with all boys vs families with all girls, or families with both. If you have a boy and a girl and give them equal chores, but pay the daughter less, than you are a misogynist, and I think I hate you. However, if they did families with boys vs families with girls, that becomes tricky, because every family is going to have a different “rate” for their allowances, right? I mean, are the people who have all girls just extra cheap? I have a girl, and I am cheap, so perhaps there is a correlation! They can add that to that baby gender prediction app. “If you are cheap, your baby will be a girl.”

    • Bethany Ramos

      April 24, 2014 at 9:39 am

      I like your science.

    • Kay_Sue

      April 24, 2014 at 9:58 am

      I have boys and I am cheap. My anecdote refutes your evidence! πŸ˜›

    • Kendra

      April 24, 2014 at 10:21 am

      Damn. Well, there goes my million dollars for solving the age old mystery. THANKS A LOT!!!!

    • Kay_Sue

      April 24, 2014 at 10:21 am

      I like to rain on parades. It’s fun for me. πŸ˜›

    • Aimee Ogden

      April 24, 2014 at 10:22 am

      Yeah, I’d like to see the original study and see how they adjusted for income/number of children overall/mixed versus sons or daughters only families, and see how these numbers hold up; but I wouldn’t be very surprised if son-and-daughter families had different rates for each kid. I know a family where the chores the son did are valued much more highly than what the daughter did, so even if they both spent the same amount of time mowing the lawn versus doing the laundry/cleaning the bathrooms, the son was going to get paid more for it. Because MAN WORK is IMPORTANT WORK. (And of course they didn’t think their daughter couldn’t possibly push a lawnmower, even though she is a teenage athlete, that’s crazy talk – she might sprain her womanliness or something.)

    • Kendra

      April 24, 2014 at 10:23 am

      That’s the reason I don’t mow. I need to keep my womanliness in tact.

    • Kay_Sue

      April 24, 2014 at 10:24 am

      I sprained mine once. It really hurt.

    • Alex Lee

      April 24, 2014 at 1:04 pm

      “IHTM: Lawnmower ruptured my hymen”

  2. Valerie

    April 24, 2014 at 9:46 am

    At this point, money is literally not a currency that Ben sees value in. The other day when I threatened to take away his allowance he went running into his room and emptied his piggybank and started flinging dollar bills around going “I DON’T LIKE MONEY ANYWAY!”

    • LiteBrite

      April 24, 2014 at 10:14 am

      My son could give a rat’s ass about getting paid for chores. I’ve brought up the topic with him and my husband a few times, but the concept hasn’t really made a dent.

      Plus, I don’t like the idea of paying kids to do crap around the house they should be doing anyways. Which reminds me that the boy and I need to have another talk about cleaning up his Legoes in the living room.

    • Bethany Ramos

      April 24, 2014 at 10:26 am

      Hahahah he knows how to beat the system.

    • Valerie

      April 24, 2014 at 10:36 am

      He calls our bluff so many times. I could write a book about this kid. And then his sister is this sweet angel with the most easy-going disposition. I don’t comprehend how they both came from my womb but are so wildly different.

    • Alex Lee

      April 24, 2014 at 10:29 am

      Ben makin’ it rain.

    • Valerie

      April 24, 2014 at 10:35 am

      OMG, my husband said the same thing. Lol.

      Ben has always been this way- I remember when he was throwing a fit once as a toddler about not being able to jump down a flight of stairs or some stupid shit and I stuck him in his highchair to feed him a snack. He took the crackers and stared me right in the eye and crumbled them to dust on his highchair tray. I imagined him saying “FUCK YO CRACKERS MOMMY, FUCK YO CRACKERS!”

    • Bethany Ramos

      April 24, 2014 at 11:03 am

      Hahaha so Elliott. Defiant mofo.

    • Butt Trophy Recipient

      April 24, 2014 at 12:44 pm

      Looks like you need a new Ben

    • Valerie

      April 24, 2014 at 12:46 pm

      He is kind of a jerk.

  3. Alicia Kiner

    April 24, 2014 at 9:53 am

    Yeah, my kids do chores right now but don’t get an allowance so to speak. When they get older they might. For the most part if they want something, they eventually get it. They might have to wait until their birthday or Christmas, but they get it. Also, most of what they want is stuff like books. Which I have no problem just buying them. I also have no trouble telling them no if it’s not really something that’s important. They get money as a reward for having good report cards that they get to spend how they want. And they get money from family and for doing things above and beyond regular chores that goes into their piggy banks to get deposited into their bank accounts. We are teaching them about money and teaching them about how to take care of their home and themselves without putting the two together.

  4. Kay_Sue

    April 24, 2014 at 10:00 am

    This is another reason that I am glad for our bounty system. We have “chores for the crew”–these chores are assigned for no monetary value, but just because we each bear a responsibility to respect our home and keep it tidy. Each kid has a set list and so do my husband and me. Then we have our “bounty list”. These are extra chores, usually things that help me out, and they each pay a set rate. Wash a window? You get 50 cents. Mop the kitchen/dining room? You get a dollar. Equal pay for equal work. Also, I do much less mopping now. πŸ˜›

    • Aimee Ogden

      April 24, 2014 at 10:15 am

      *takes notes furiously*

    • Kay_Sue

      April 24, 2014 at 10:16 am

      It has the bonus of allowing me to refer to myself as Darth Mom and to my husband as Jabba the Dad when they come to collect their bounties. πŸ˜›

    • Psych Student

      April 27, 2014 at 2:47 am

      Best. Bonus. Ever!

    • Kay_Sue

      April 27, 2014 at 8:33 pm

      It really is.

    • Megan Zander

      April 24, 2014 at 10:21 am

      Sooo if you could just type this up for me or create some sort of purchasable handout that would be super since I am 100% adopting the Kay Sue Method for raising children that help out around the house without becoming spoiled and also understand the value of money.

    • Kay_Sue

      April 24, 2014 at 10:23 am

      I’m not going to lie, I’m a little proud of it. It’s one of many examples of how we’ve had to evolve our friggin’ parenting because kids can be assholes.

    • Katherine Handcock

      April 24, 2014 at 12:42 pm

      This is what I’m planning, too! My kids get to pick one little treat a week now; when they’re old enough for allowances, we’ll just replace the treat with a cash equivalent. And if there’s not enough I will have PLENTY of ideas of what they can do πŸ™‚

    • Iwill Findu

      April 24, 2014 at 9:26 pm

      The only problem with that is one day I washed and waxed the kitchen floor (waxing was extra money it’s alot of freaking work) The very next day my sister made a cake and spilled batter all over the floor mopped it up and then tried to collect the money for the mop up. She couldn’t understand why she wasn’t getting paid to clean up her own mess.

    • Kay_Sue

      April 24, 2014 at 9:43 pm

      That’s actually worked into the bounties. Cleaning up your own messes doesn’t count. You also can’t mop the floor seven days in a floor, or clean every window every day for the week, or anything. There’s a number of times each bounty can be claimed. Otherwise, it could be an issue I’m sure.

  5. WriterLady

    April 24, 2014 at 10:11 am

    I think the problem is two-fold. One would hope that this age-old idea that women and girls are naturally supposed to do housework and chores whereas boys and men are doing “extra work” when they complete the same tasks would have dissipated with our parents’ generation, if not earlier. Unfortunately, study after study shows that women are still disproportionately responsible for more domestic work than men—even if both work full-time jobs. I must be very fortunate, as that is not the case in my home. Regardless, it’s still a troubling trend, and until men understand that gender equality goes beyond college and the workforce, this type of nonsense will continue to happen. I do think younger men’s attitudes are changing, but that is largely dependent on how they were raised.

    As for gender inequality in the workforce, I’m torn on this one. While I’m a proud feminist, I do know that many studies on this issue point out that the salary differences largely have to do with women working in traditionally lower-paid fields. (The fact that jobs like teaching and nursing are considered “lower paying jobs” is exasperating in its own right, but that debate is probably reserved for a different post.) Another factor is that many women leave the workforce upon having children, and upon their return, they find themselves making less than their male colleagues who never took a lengthy absence from work. During that time, many of the women who would have climbed the proverbial ladder missed out on promotions and salary increases. This is not at all to suggest that staying at home is to be frowned upon; for many women, those years at home with the kids trump any benefits that the workplace could provide. But when you look at women with the exact same qualifications as men (and who work in the same field), the pay is similar. Sheryl Sandberg’s book, “Lean In,” describes that part of the problem is that women are less likely to negotiate for salary increases or blatantly ask about the possibility of future promotions. Again, I’m not criticizing women, by any means, but I think there is some progress to be made in how women learn not only the fundamentals of their profession, but how to navigate through–and negotiate in–the business world. But, when all is said and done, nobody can deny that much work still needs to be done to recognize the problems of gender inequality in sectors and industries where the problem is truly pervasive.

    • Kay_Sue

      April 24, 2014 at 10:21 am

      I agree with everything you’ve said. When you really look at these studies, I think it is more terrifying, in a manner of speaking, than the idea of “equal pay for equal work”, because it points to so many other factors that we gloss over. Those factors are more difficult to impact.

      I am curious to see what the rising trend of male partners choosing to say home shows us about absences from the workplace.

    • WriterLady

      April 24, 2014 at 12:00 pm

      Yes, I absolutely agree. It has been my experience that women who stay in the workforce typically earn about as much as their counterparts. The only times that I have felt as though I were at a disadvantage is during the negotiation process. I can’t speak for all women, of course, but I find it very difficult to voice my opinions and negotiate better rates when I take on a new project (which I have to do on a regular basis). Can we chalk this up to a gender issue, though, or an individual’s personality? To me, it seems like the latter…especially since most of my clients have female-led supervisory teams. I firmly believe that I could have made more money on a couple of projects had I not settled for the rate I was assigned without so much as a discussion about the potential for slightly more money (when it may have been warranted).

      I’m also in agreement that so many factors have to be considered, and I’m not sure that the studies on gender equality in the workplace are equipped to account for these variables (as you’ve already suggested). That’s not to say that there aren’t fields where women struggle to keep up with their male colleagues. I’ve heard that certain male-dominated fields, such as engineering, can be difficult for women to break into and achieve some semblance of equality. I’m really not sure if this is due to legitimate misogyny, or the fact that women account for a small percentage of engineers and only recently began entering the profession on a sizable scale. I would imagine that as with other occupations, women in engineering and other STEM positions will eventually begin to keep pace with men in the field (both monetarily and in terms of promotions).

      And, yes, I would be very interested to see how stay-at-home dads fare once they re-enter the workforce. My guess is that the same phenomenon would happen, but I think only time will tell.

    • Aimee Ogden

      April 24, 2014 at 12:22 pm

      I think it IS to a large extent a gendered issue, being able to ask for a raise – whether or not you have a female supervisor, women are socialized to feel that being “bossy” or “demanding” is a bad thing to be, while men are rewarded for being “assertive” for similar behaviors. And a female boss is just as likely to have similar feelings about that as a male boss, thanks to internalized misogyny. I think it’s hard to argue that women struggling to break into engineering is due only to low numbers and not sexism; otherwise are you suggesting that the female engineers who do exist can’t break into the field because they are actually worse than all their male co-applicants? I think a lot of women probably leave the field because of the boys-club atmosphere (at least that’s what I’ve heard from friends in academia – not sure if engineering firms are similar, but I would hardly be surprised). And time off work to raise kids isn’t the only factor in women with kids making less money – Cornell found that resumes with identical credentials were most likely to be received well if the applicant was a man with children, followed by childless applicants, and least likely to warrant a phone call if submitted by a mother. (

      The other part of the wage gap to consider besides men and women receiving equal pay for the same work is that to a large degree, women are still directed toward a gendered subset of jobs that are, by and large, not well paid. Women who like social science get nudged toward social work; men toward economics. Which of those pays better? Teaching is a predominantly female profession, while most tenured college professors are male, and studies show that applications for tenure-track positions with equal merits are judged more favorably if a man’s name is on them than if a woman’s name is. (And the pay gap, and likeliness of application rejection, only increases when sexism intersects with racism – black and latina women make even less on the dollar than white women do). Our society devalues what is perceived as “feminine”, while at the same time insisting that women perform femininity.

    • WriterLady

      April 24, 2014 at 12:55 pm

      I don’t disagree with some of what you have to say. As for my own anecdote, it should be noted that I am notoriously introverted by nature. My brother, who is an engineer, is the same way. We’ve both lost out on pay as a result. A female colleague of mine, on the other hand, is extremely assertive, and will not hesitate to ask for more money. When we were both offered the same pay for the same 10-month-long project, she demanded more money (literally) and received it. I only found this out recently, and it has helped me to be a little more firm and assertive in my own negotiations.

      As for collegiate-level work, I’m not so sure that is true in all areas. I taught college composition for a number of years as an adjunct instructor, and all of the tenure-track positions went to women–with the exception of one male who was hired in. Again, I think much of this is circumstantial. As a result, studies can’t adequately account for the variations. Personalities and lifestyles play a huge role in how people are hired and compensated. With that said, I have previously stated that I do believe certain professions and/or industries are still patriarchal in nature. In a few decades, I believe the playing field will be evened out.

    • Ennis Demeter

      April 24, 2014 at 11:27 am

      But the studies show that women make less than men working the same hours in the same field. It really is not explained by career choice and time spent with the job. Male nurses make more than female nurses, on average.

    • WriterLady

      April 25, 2014 at 9:34 am

      I did a little research into this issue and found the same problems with differences in variables that I have described in relation to other occupations. While male nurses traditionally make more than female nurses, almost all studies have compared nurses with the same level of education, but they have either omitted other factors, or readers have honed in on the salary discrepancies only (without taking into consideration other reasons why this is happening). From the following article: “About 6 percent of nurses in the United States are men. However, men are represented in much higher numbers in nursing specialties that also pay higher salaries. For example, 49 percent of Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNAs) in the U.S. are men.” Additionally, as several of us have pointed out, male nurses are much more likely to vigorously negotiate higher salaries. I wasn’t a huge fan of everything Sandberg had to say in “Lean In,” but the one thing I agreed with is that women need to be more assertive or aggressive during the hiring and promotion processes. This is an average, of course, as there are *some* women who are as likely as men to negotiate higher salaries, better work-life balance, etc. One other factor noted in the article is that male nurses, on average, work more overtime hours. All of these factors indicate reasons why they may make more money than female nurses. However, as with all occupations/industries, I have no doubt that there are some hospital administrators or doctors who are biased toward men.

    • WriterLady

      April 25, 2014 at 9:37 am

      And another article that essentially repeats the same information… When you control for the fact that male nurses are more likely to have doctoral degrees, work in the highest-paying nursing specialties, and work overtime, the wage gap all but disappears. There is still a slight discrepancy, but as the Wall Street Journal article states, it’s only about 5-7% for people with the exact same qualifications, specialties, etc. And, again, when you factor in salary negotiations (which is a factor that is not quantifiable as a statistical component), this may completely eradicate the wage gap in this particular field.

  6. Aimee Ogden

    April 24, 2014 at 10:17 am

    Start training ’em young to expect less for the same amount of (or more!) work, it makes adjustment to corporate life a LOT easier later on!

  7. Guets

    April 24, 2014 at 10:32 am

    I am trying to figure out if this was all girl households vs all boy households? Like there aren’t people who say “Way to go Sally and Billy for cleaning your rooms, $5 for you Sally, $10 for you Billy”. Wtf. I know when I was growing up with two brothers I did way more cleaning than them because I really liked to clean stuff. My parents were always hit or miss on allowances though…they have a real problem with follow through.

    • Aimee Ogden

      April 24, 2014 at 11:01 am

      I’m guessing it’s related to the fact that different types of household chores are, to a lot of people, somewhat gendered; so Billy mows the lawn and gets $20, and Sally does the dishes and the laundry and gets $15 even though it takes the same amount of time.

      But then my son is currently wearing blue and white polka dot pants with a pink butterfly on the butt with his Milwaukee Brewers onesie, so you can probably guess that I have Strong Opinions about gender and the performance thereof. :b

    • Paul White

      April 24, 2014 at 11:51 am

      Laundry doesn’t take as much time as mowing a yard (unless you have a postage stamp yard). I mean yeah the machine runs forever, but you don’t have to stand there the whole time watching it, and folding and sorting is about 10 minutes….

    • Aimee Ogden

      April 24, 2014 at 12:07 pm

      That’s why I included the dishes in my example, too. Plus, dishes are typically a nightly deal, and hopefully more than one load of laundry gets done a week too, whereas the lawn only needs mowed once or twice a week. So if Sally’s chores are “laundry and dishes” and Billy’s is “lawn”, it doesn’t take long for her to be putting in more time, and since “aaaanyone can do laundry” (even if not everyone in the household is expected to, a lot of the time), her work is devalued.

      (P.S. We do have a postage stamp yard, haha. It’s also almost perfectly rectangular, which is nice, because our last house was on an irregular polygon lot and navigating the corners made me want to move to an apartment and never mow again.)

    • Paul White

      April 24, 2014 at 12:41 pm

      We don’t have a tiny yard but all our grass died during this drought. Oh well.

    • Rumaikiyya

      April 25, 2014 at 4:20 am

      I think actually there are people who essentially do go Sally and Billy, $5 for you/$10 for you example but frame it differently. I think there are people who expect girls to help with cleaning the house/herding younger siblings because that’s what girls do. So it’s not thought of as chore and isn’t connected to allowance. It’s just part of being a girl in a family. But boys aren’t expected to do much and so boy work gets identified as a chore and connected to an allowance.

      In addition to that, I agree with the comment below that gender bias can lead to different tasks and thus different payment structures based on that.

  8. krock19

    April 24, 2014 at 12:51 pm

    I question the concept of $45 – 48 / week for chores… Is this seriously the going rate?

    • Paul White

      April 24, 2014 at 2:00 pm

      no shit. I couldn’t afford that.

    • Kelly

      April 24, 2014 at 4:23 pm

      It seems crazy to me too.

  9. Rachel Sea

    April 24, 2014 at 12:53 pm

    It is super common, among the families I know, to have chores that everyone does, but to then also have extra chores, which end up being boy chores and girl chores, even though they don’t set out to create a gender divide. Boys do yardwork and outside cleaning, girls do laundry and indoor cleaning, and because a landscaper costs more than a house cleaner, boys get paid more for that “extra” work than girls.

  10. AE Vorro

    April 24, 2014 at 4:16 pm

    Ha, this reminds me of my paternal grandmother. She was mostly great, but she definitely favored my brother over me when we were kids. When we visited her (individually, not usually together), we would do chores. I’d wash every dish in her house (she had multiple sets that collected dust — I was tasked with washing off said dust) and would receive $10. My brother would change a light bulb and receive… $10.

  11. Kelly

    April 24, 2014 at 4:21 pm

    I only see this as a problem if the discrepancy is between boys and girls in the same home.

    As in, I’m not a misogynist because I give my son more than some other random person gives their daughter. I genuinely don’t give a shit what other parents give their children, it has nothing to do with my decision on what to give mine. It’s not like I’d give a daughter less if I had one.

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