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Extraordinary Medical Expenses Widen Gender Wealth Gap, JPMorgan Chase Institute Data Shows

New research evaluates differences between how women and men weather extraordinary expenses.

May 10, 2017 (Washington, DC) – Today the JPMorgan Chase Institute released new research comparing the financial activities of men and women to shed new light on the financial challenges of women faced with extraordinary medical payments. The Institute found a gender gap in how women fared financially even before they tackled an extraordinary payment -- women had roughly 20 percent lower levels of income, spending, and liquid assets, as well as slightly higher credit card debt burdens than men. When confronted with an extraordinary medical expense, the financial gap between men and women grew even wider.

“These findings demonstrate the importance of designing and providing more solutions that improve women’s ability to weather and rebound from financial shocks,” said Diana Farrell, President and CEO, JPMorgan Chase Institute. “They also point to a critical need to understand the impact that medical expenses have on women. Should out-of-pocket healthcare costs increase for women, women may have to shoulder more of the economic burden of receiving care than men do.”

The Institute assembled a de-identified sample of more than 210,000 core Chase checking account customers between 2013 and 2015, for whom the Institute could infer the gender of the primary account holder and categorize at least 80 percent of expenses. Following include key findings from the new release.

  • Finding One: While most primary account holders were men, low-income primary account holders were more likely to be women.
    • Sixty-two percent of account holders in the lowest income quintile were women, compared to just 30 percent of account holders in the highest income quintile.
  • Finding Two: There was a gender gap in financial outcomes – women exhibited roughly 20 percent lower levels of income, spending, and liquid assets, and slightly higher credit card debt burden than men.
    • Women's accounts exhibited 23 percent lower take-home incomes, 21 percent lower spending, and 20 percent lower liquid assets than men's accounts.
    • Although women had 5 percent less revolving credit card debt in absolute terms, women were more likely than men to have a positive revolving credit balance than men: 76 percent of women had a revolving credit card balance compared to 70 percent of men.
    • Women had the equivalent of 0.9 months of income in revolving credit card debt compared to 0.7 months for men, implying a higher monthly debt burden for women in relation to their income.
  • Finding Three: Extraordinary medical payments represented a higher fraction of monthly take-home income for women than for men. Women were in a weaker financial position than men to withstand an extraordinary medical payment.
    • The magnitude of extraordinary medical payments was larger for women, representing 52 percent of a month’s take-home pay for women compared to 48 percent for men.
    • Women’s incomes and liquid assets were more than 20 percent lower prior to the extraordinary medical payment compared to men’s.
  • Finding Four: Immediately before making an extraordinary medical payment, women exhibited a larger increase in liquid assets relative to men, suggesting that they were more likely than men to delay a medical payment until they were able to pay.
    • Women garnered a 7 percent ($1,076) increase in liquid assets compared to a 5 percent ($858) increase in liquid assets for men immediately prior to making the medical payment.
    • The difference in these magnitudes is surprising, especially in light of the fact that the amount of medical payment was 18 percent lower for women.
  • Finding Five: A year after the extraordinary medical payment, the gender gap in financial outcomes had widened, leaving women with 9 percent more revolving credit card debt than men.
    • Among those who made the extraordinary medical payments, more women (35 percent) increased their revolving credit card balance than men (29 percent).
    • Before the large medical payment, women had the equivalent of 0.8 months of income in credit card debt compared to 0.6 for men. After the medical payment, women had 0.9 months’ worth of income in credit card debt compared to still 0.6 for men.

About JPMorgan Chase Institute
The JPMorgan Chase Institute is a global think tank dedicated to delivering data-rich analyses and expert insights for the public good. Its aim is to help decision makers – policymakers, businesses, and nonprofit leaders – appreciate the scale, granularity, diversity, and interconnectedness of the global economic system and use better facts, timely data, and thoughtful analysis to make smarter decisions to advance global prosperity. Drawing on JPMorgan Chase & Co.’s unique proprietary data, expertise, and market access, the Institute develops analyses and insights on the inner workings of the global economy, frames critical problems, and convenes stakeholders and leading thinkers. For more information visit: www.jpmorganchaseinstitute.com.