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The Men's Rights organization, Men Going Their Own Way (MGTOW) have claimed (quoting The Observer Watches Blog) that:

Consumption in the modern world today is driven overwhelmingly by women (80-91%, depending on which economist you ask).

The site is obviously biased, and doesn't cite any economist despite making the allusion.

Are women responsible for driving 80% or more of society's consumption?

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the idea of who drives consumption is largely subjective, are products targeted at the young adult male population for the purpose of attracting women being driven by the men spending money or the women they are seeking? –  Ryathal Apr 8 '13 at 17:35
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"honey, I MUST have new clothes, I have NOTHING to wear" (while standing in front of an overflowing walk in closet full of stuff she's only worn once). –  jwenting Apr 9 '13 at 5:52
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According to Joel Spolsky, women drive 100% of life (Jump to ~29:00) –  Flimzy Apr 12 '13 at 2:34
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2 Answers

The claim that MGTOW makes is a bit different than the more widely made claim that women "control" 80% of spending. Drive means something different than control, but I'll answer this question based on the widely known claim about women controlling 80% of spending.

From Who Makes the Call at the Mall, Men or Women? (Carl Bialik - Wall Street Journal):

Several recent surveys suggest that men have nearly equal say on spending, and that when men and women live together, both participate in spending decisions.

The 80% figure is often repeated and is "ubiquitous", but it lacks a source.

Many marketing gurus who rely on the 80% figure cite the work of Marti Barletta. [...] Ms. Barletta concedes that she has no specific source for the figure.

One survey asked women the percentage of household spending they control or influence. The average answer was 73%. When men were asked what percentage of household spending they (men) control or influence, the average answer was 61%.

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Marti Barletta has defended her position against the claims in this article. It would be good to see that considered in this answer. –  Oddthinking Apr 8 '13 at 23:51
    
@Oddthinking Thanks for that pointer, but I'm not comfortable using her own website as a primary source in my answer. She is not disinterested. I'd be more comfortable if a reliable, third party source has decided her argument is credible. Maybe your comment here is good enough for now, in case people are curious about what she has to say. –  Articuno Apr 9 '13 at 1:23
    
I understand the need to not include false balance, but given she appears to be the source of the claim, it seems reasonable to mention her defence (and perhaps critique it...) –  Oddthinking Apr 9 '13 at 2:56
    
e.g. where she claims that, in couples, 'while a man has the power to veto a home purchase, only the woman has the power to say, “Yes.” I’d say “the power of yes” is 90% of the value of the spending decision.' A moment's thought reveals the first sentence to be vacuous. By her own logic both parties have to agree (shock!) on a purchase, and then the 90% figure is plucked from the air. –  Oddthinking Apr 9 '13 at 2:59
    
While I like this answer, it significantly differs from MGTOW's claim. If MGTOW's claim has no grounding in research (and thus an answer can't be produced either way, assuming nobody bothered to criticize them), I won't be surprised if no other relevant answers appear, but I won't accept this one. –  Fadeway Apr 9 '13 at 12:09
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When used by Men's Rights types and anti-feminists, it's polemic. What I mean by that is it is an argument used specifically to counter claims by feminists, and in that respect specifically it doesn't matter if it is true, because the original statement is made by feminists and by women's groups.

In other words the argument goes like, "OK you feminists are saying women don't earn enough money, but then you go around saying women account for 80% of consumer expenditure, so what the hell's up with that?"

Gloria Steinem for example has used this statistic and its quite common with women's groups, especially if they are to do with promoting women in business. As in, "Your business needs to be pandering to women because they make up 80% of consumer expenditure."

As others have pointed out it's not clear how you'd go about measuring this.

http://www.trendsight.com/content/view/40/204/

http://www.fastcodesign.com/1663594/women-dominate-the-global-market-place-here-are-5-keys-to-reaching-them

http://www.inwomenwetrust.com/resources/just-the-facts

It's easy to find many more feminist / women sites quoting these statistics. Is the statistic true? A lot of MRM groups would be among the first to point out that feminists lie with statistics all the time. But this is not relevant to the polemic of using feminists own statistics against them in an argument.

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Welcome to Skeptics, David. The first 3 paragraphs don't address the question. They only try to shift the blame on who originally made the claim, without trying to address whether it is true. Possibly could make a clarification to the question, if it was cleaned up, but isn't part of an answer. –  Oddthinking Apr 10 '13 at 0:22
    
In the centre, you seem to want to argue that there is no answer, because it is impossible to measure. Great, but you need to provide references to support that. –  Oddthinking Apr 10 '13 at 0:23
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