Family spending: Whores and beer vs. education and entrepreneurship

For years, my dad loved telling people about a guy who had just hit the lottery for millions. Asked what he planned to do, the guy said something like, “I’m going to spend half on women and booze. The other half, I’ll do something frivilous with.”

According to Nicholas Kristof, this is an accurate analysis of how men around the world actually spend their family’s money:

I would interview families that had just lost a child to malaria, and I would ask why they didn’t have bed nets. They would say that they were very poor, and they would be right. But then it would turn out that the husband goes three times a week to a bar, spending $2 a session — as much each week as the cost of a bed net. And it always strikes me that in remote villages you can often find Coke or cigarettes or beers in the market, but often not bed nets or deworming medicine….

In our book, Half the Sky, we estimate that the poorest families spend about 20 percent of incomes — 10 times as much as on education — on a combination of alcohol, tobacco, prostitution, sugary drinks and candy, and extravagant festivals. And the evidence is very strong, across a range of cultures, that this is largely because the purse strings are controlled by men. When women control the purse strings, money seems more likely to be spent on educating kids and starting businesses.

Posted by James on Monday, May 24, 2010