Journal of Family and Economic Issues

, Volume 31, Issue 2, pp 185–197 | Cite as

Extreme Financial Strain: Emergent Chores, Gender Inequality and Emotional Distress

  • Deborah Thorne
Original Paper


This qualitative study examines the gendered division, and emotional effects, of household financial labor among severely indebted couples prior to filing consumer bankruptcy. Interviews with 19 newly bankrupt couples in Spokane, Washington, illustrate how, before bankruptcy, the peripheral and mundane chore of paying bills transforms into multiple arduous core chores: micro-management of money, debt collector negotiations, and researching and deciding to file bankruptcy. These newly emergent low-control chores are gendered and the wives’ responsibility. Gendering occurs for two reasons. Some women retain responsibility for emergent chores because husbands exhibit financial irresponsibility. Others request their husbands’ assistance, but the men refuse because the financial chores are upsetting or bothersome. Many wives who manage the newly emergent financial chores experience negative emotional effects.


Bankruptcy Debt Emotional distress Gender inequality Household financial management 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Sociology and AnthropologyOhio UniversityAthensUSA

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