Are Girls Better at Planning and Saving than Boys?
As part of market research for the Youthsave project I recently attended youth focus group discussions in a rural area of Kenya called Limuru, not far from Nairobi. I observed discussions with two groups of youth between the ages of 12 and 18: a group of girls still attending school and a group of boys who had dropped out of school.
One of the girls said, “Girls plan and save and boys don’t.” Initially, I thought this was just a case of girls feeling they are superior and went over to the boys group fully expecting them to say they are better at saving. To my surprise, the boys group echoed the girls. “Girls are better at saving. We just want to eat and drink!” And it’s not unique to Kenya. I met with a large group of 75 youth in Ghana and the same story unfolded.
Recent research has shown that in a study on adolescent orphans in Uganda, there is no statistically significant difference in saving amounts by gender.
While there might be a selection bias in terms of fewer boys in the universe actually saving, there is also a perception that boys are not adept at managing their money. Theory on consumer behavior would suggest that the perception that ‘boys don’t save’ could potentially lead to peer pressure, which actually further dissuades boys from saving, thus becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy.
This has implications for projects like YouthSave, which are looking to design savings products for lower income youth. Being cognizant of this perception will allow the project to reach out to boys and counter this bias, for example, projecting images of a strong male role model saying, “I save. So can you!”
I think one of the reasons even young girls in developing countries realize the importance of savings is because they become mothers at a young age and put the needs of their children first before anything else. Savings are important for the future of their children, and girls and women are more likely to put money aside for that purpose than are men and boys.
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