Myth: Women control about 85% of household spending

This claim, and others using similar figures, are often cited as empowering for women. But they’re false, and that’s a good thing — because the myth is actually bad for women.

First, the stats. I report accurate figures in All In, and wrote a Huffington Post column about this. It reads in part:

The often repeated 85% figure has no basis. The Wall Street Journal’s Carl Bialik did a good job of breaking this down. The publisher of the Marketing to Women newsletter told Bilalik the figure is “folklore.” A woman who is often cited as the source for the number admitted she has no basis for it. In fact, “Several recent surveys suggest that men have nearly equal say on spending, and that when men and women live together, both participate in spending decisions,” Bialik wrote.

For All In, I went in search of the most solid figures available. One study from Cone Communications found that slightly more than half of dads say they’re the primary grocery shoppers. A study by Child’s Play Communications, carried out by the independent research group NPD, found that moms are the primary shoppers in about 80% of families, making about two-thirds of the spending decisions, and that dads are getting more involved. It also found that in several major categories, men and women share shopping decisions equally.

These figures also vary around the world. For example, a survey in Russia found that men are 52% of primary grocery shoppers.

The myth hurts women because it fuels the idea that only women take care of the home. As I’ve explained, people in power work to prevent men from having time to take care of their families because they’re convinced that men don’t really do anything for the home. They believe a man who seeks paternity leave will just sit around and do nothing. See more on this in a story I wrote for Money magazine.