Do Seven out of Ten Millennial Women Really Experience Financial Abuse?

According to Kelsey Sheehy of NerdWallet in an article for the Associated Press, nearly 70% of millennial-aged women have experienced “financial abuse” by a romantic partner.

This claim is supported by a press release from CentSai, the financial wellness website which surveyed 2,000 millennials (people ages 18-35) in 2017. This statistic is worrisome to say the least – financial abuse is not a commonly spoken of form of abuse, but according to the press release it is prevalent among this young age bracket.

In her article, Sheehy explained that financial abuse comes in many different forms and degrees, but all fall under the basic umbrella of a person using money to control or manipulate his or her romantic partner.

Whether it’s failing to keep a job or pay the bills, making a partner feel guilty for how he or she spends money, or handling household finances in order to restrict the other’s access to accounts, all of the above are forms of financial abuse. Sheehy went on to list several other forms as well, including the withholding of financial information. Then she proceeded to give advice on what to do if one thinks his or her partner financially abusive.

In the last week, several smaller outlets reported on the Associated Press’ article and the phenomenon of financial abuse including Asbury Park Press, Regina Leader-Post, and Minneapolis Star Tribune.

However, newsworthy and concerning as Sheehy’s report is, there’s reason to remain cautious of her findings. As Ashe Schow from the Daily Wire pointed out, the fact that Sheehy cited the press release and not the actual survey from CentSai means we as readers have no idea what kinds of questions millennials were asked during the survey.

What exactly constitutes financial abuse? Sheehy gave several examples, but the term is vague enough that CentSai could have used it broadly to include very minor or infrequent offenses.

Additionally, as Schow said, it’s also impossible to know what constitutes a romantic partner at all. For married couples or partners in long-term relationships who cohabitate, it’s certainly true they should be open and fair about finances.

However, not all relationships (especially those among young people) are so committed. For partners just getting to know each other, it’s difficult to say that withholding information about one’s financial situation is wrong. And even if it is, to call it abusive is a stretch.

Furthermore, Sheehy only mentioned very briefly in her article that 50% of millennial men also say they have experienced financial abuse. While not as high as 70%, if this is really abuse we’re talking about, why not say more about men?

Additionally, Sheehy neglected to report that this wasn’t the first survey CentSai conducted on financial abuse – just a year before, in 2016, CentSai found that men were actually more likely than women to experience financial abuse.

Additionally, the number of women who said they had experienced financial abuse was far lower. How could the number change so drastically in just one year?

The Associated Press’ headline is certainly eye-catching, and again there is reason for concern – for both sexes.

However, the fact that CentSai has failed to release how they conducted the survey makes it hard to take Sheehy’s claims seriously. Instead, it really does just sound like a fabricated effort to paint women as the victims of yet another form of societal oppression.

And, until key details are released by either CentSai or Sheehy, there’s really no reason to believe otherwise. News outlets should either wait for all the facts to come out or take better care to inform readers about the holes in their research.

When outlets choose catchy, narrative-friendly headlines over sound research based on factual dataand integrity, it puts the public at risk of being misled.


Ruth Moreno is a contributor to