The following post is by staff writer Melissa Batai
For generations, men were the primary breadwinners and women stayed home to care for the house and the children. Within the last 50 years, this societal norm has undergone a dramatic shift.
Now, not only are women in the workforce, but 60 percent of two-parent households with children under 18 contain a working mother (Bureau of Labor Statistics). Of those households, 29 percent are households where both parents work AND the woman earns more than the man (Bureau of Labor Statistics).
Considering that one in three married women makes more than their husbands, this issue should no longer matter, right?
Not so fast.
Husbands Who Are Happy about Their Wives’ Earnings
My husband and I have been married for 15 years. During the first 10 years of our marriage, I was the primary breadwinner for the family while he went to graduate school full-time and was a teaching assistant part-time. Only in the last five years, as our family jumped from one to three kids and I resigned from my full-time job did my husband become the primary breadwinner.
My cousin, Jane, married a farmer, Chad, who also works as a plumber. He happily admits that Jane earns more than him. He gleefully told me once, “That just gives me more money to spend. . .” on all of his farm equipment. Clearly Chad doesn’t have an issue with Jane making more money than he does. That just helps him support his interests, which he wouldn’t otherwise be able to.
Husbands Who Struggle with Their Wives Earning More Than They Do
But not all couples in which the woman earns more than the man feel this way. In the forty plus years since married women have entered the workforce in large numbers, many couples still struggle when the man makes more than the woman.
A 2013 New York Times article boldly states, “A new study reveals that women’s gains on the economic front may be contributing to a decline in the formation and stability of marriages.” In the study, three economists from the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business found that, “traditional views of gender identity, particularly the view that the right and proper role of the husband is to make more money than the wife, are affecting choices of whom to marry, how much to work, and even whether to stay married.”
So what happens to women who are married to men who are uncomfortable with a woman making more than they do? The researchers discovered that those women often opt out of the workforce or choose to work part-time to avoid the conflict (New York Times).
Think about that for a minute. A woman wants to work and succeed, and yet she puts her career and her incoming earning potential aside to preserve their marriage. Think of the many dollars that could be used–to pay off debt, to invest in retirement, to invest in college funds–that evaporate because the man is uncomfortable with a woman making more than he does.
If marriage is truly about being a team, it seems that the man shouldn’t be concerned with his wife making more than he does. They should both work together to make sure that the marriage and the family succeed in all aspects, including financially.
What do you think? Do you understand why men still feel uncomfortable with women making more than they do? If you’re a woman, have you reduced your hours or quit your job to avoid this conflict?