Much social and economic policy is based upon units such as the tax unit or the household, and much of it makes certain assumptions about flows of resources within these units. This article focuses on the control and allocation of financial resources within households, drawing on work done in the past and on original material taken from a study of the problems of a group of women whose marriages had broken down because of violence. Concentrating on the household type which is composed of a married couple and their dependent children, the article outlines three broad types of allocation system – the whole wage system, the allowance system and the pooling system. It is suggested that there are links between the system of allocation within the family, the stage in the life cycle which the family has reached, the income level of the household, and the occupational, regional and ethnic culture within which the household is located. The article concludes by suggesting that a better knowledge of intra-household money flows would be relevant to discussion concerned with the distribution of poverty, the allocation of welfare benefits, and the contribution made by married women's earnings to family living standards, and that it would also contribute to a better understanding of marital tension and marital breakdown.
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