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Dr. Helen

Would You Care if Your Wife Earned More?

February 22nd, 2013 - 5:23 am

According to this study, marriages don’t go well when the wife earns more:

Women outearn their husbands in nearly a quarter of households with spouses between 18 and 65 years old, according to data from the 2010 American Community Survey. But their increased paycheck comes at a price, as the researchers show. They find that marriage rates decline when a woman has the potential to outearn her husband. Using US Census Bureau data from 1970 to 2010, Bertrand and her coauthors find that the more likely it is that a wife can earn more than her husband, the less likely she is to work outside the home.

Moreover, among adults age 25 to 39, marriage rates have declined from about 81 percent in 1970 to 51 percent in 2010. The authors calculate that as much as 29 percent of that decline may be linked to aversion to a wife earning more than her husband.

Naturally, the researchers conclude that women picking up all the slack is to blame for higher rates of divorce:

Moreover, wives who earn more often end up doing more of the household chores, not less. Data from the American Time Use Survey, covering the years 2003 to 2011, showed that while husbands spent an average of 20.8 hours a week on non-market work and childcare, wives spent 33.5 hours on those activities. One explanation for this, the researchers suggest, is that a wife making more money is doing more chores to assuage her husband’s unease. But serving as both the primary breadwinner and the primary homemaker may be draining. That, the researchers point out, “may be one of the mechanisms behind our results on divorce.”

However, studies have also shown that women are unhappy when they earn more than their husbands so I wonder if the unhappiness is caused partly because the women feel that they should have a man with “higher status.”

I think in today’s legal climate, it is a good idea for a man to marry someone who makes more money than they do, for the simple reason that it may protect him more down the line if there is a divorce. Most men I know don’t care if the wife makes more money, but then, that is my experience.

Would you care if your wife earned more or would it be a welcome relief?

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Image courtesy shutterstock / Kary1974

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Top Rated Comments   
My wife makes substantially more than me, about 159K and it doesn't bother either me or her. We have been married nearly 30 years and in all that time I made more or equal to her for only about the first 10 years, then in a series of fortunate events and hard work on her part she was elevated to senior management.

My wife still does the laundry, I don't much care about how things are folded, which is a pet peeve with her. I do all of the maintenance the house and cars require as well as the majority of the cooking, at least from March through October as I didn't spend 2k on that shiny stainless outdoor grill for nothing. She plans the vacations, I make sure that all the bills are paid to maintain the credit score.

Once at a dinner with friends I was asked, "Is your wife your best friend?". I replied "No, best friends often screw each other over and I have an obligation as a husband that extends far beyond the bounds of friendship."



1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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All Comments   (75)
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Before we married my wife pretended to be poor and let me support her in my ridiculous apartment. then when a lawyer was needed suddenly it developed she had money. When we went home to see her parents and marry , well it was culture shock. Maids cooks. the f. and we were eating chuck steak on saturdays?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
A very common statement that I am seeing below - and I think that is the "answer" - is that the men themselves don't care if the woman makes more (they would even welcome it), the problem is that the *women* themselves care. Meaning that your days may be numbered as a husband if the wife makes more (because of "hypergamy").

I absolutely agree with that. Who wouldn't want to have an easier job - but a higher lifestyle because of some spouse? The problem is that a housewife is doing the hardest job in the world (and in her pajamas to boot), but a "househusband" is a friggin' leech.

The reality is probably that someone who leeches off someone else is not doing the hardest job in the world, whether male or female.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Marriage today is a future killer for all men, get married, spend the rest of your life paying your ex to screw other men and not seeing your kids unless you pay rent.
In this age of Ms Flukes there is simply no reason to get married.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Marriage is bizarre in unexpected ways.

The 65-year-old man who had always left his money to his children marries again. He gets Alzheimer's disease shortly after that, and the wife *legally* maneuvers all of his assets over to her in joint name.

Happens a lot.

She is one rich woman, never having worked a real day in her life. Leeching off men is the most productive thing that women can do in terms of getting money. Patricia Kluge got a settlement approaching one billion dollars, then went bankrupt a few decades later. Who cares? Now she has a new sap to pay for her. I don't think men realize the extent of this.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
My wife always earned more than me, I am a disabled veteran of the Vietnam period. Life after the RELACDU was made much harder by these facts.
Where as the wife was a pretty tall brunette with an education.
It was my fault if I earned less.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Most men I know that make less than their wives are only bothered because their wives are. They couldn't care less otherwise.

My wife is the breadwinner currently (though my investments from when I was working are now generating about 30% of our income). I am not bothered by my wife making more than me (though I already had success). It does bother my wife but I think that is mostly her loss of status at work and among her female friends about not having a "provider male". Apparently I am considered near bum status even though I am handling 3 children under 5 one of which has a mental disability.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Not at all..it would allow me to return to what I love...building hand-made, custom furniture. Something we can't afford for me to do now. My wife has been working part-time for 5 years now...because why in the world would a company hire someone in retail management with 25 years of experience, when they can hire a kid out of college and pay them nothing...
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Heck no, I don't care that my wife makes more than I do. Because she does, quite a bit more.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The more income, the merrier! Who cares where it comes from? Cash is cash and it would take some of the stress off of me.
TheOldMan
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
"Who cares where it comes from?"

Women.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
There have been times in our marriage when she earned more than me and times when I earned more than her. When we were first married, we were both computer programmers, but she worked in the aerospace defense industry and I worked for a public university. I moved into industry and my salary went up and she cut back her work schedule to get another master's degree. Then she left computers to become a public school teacher. Now she has left teaching and gone back to school again and I am the sole breadwinner (by this point our youngest "child" is about to turn 28). Soon I will retire and she will be back to work for a few more years (12 year age difference). It doesn't matter who makes how much as long as a family can live on the annual total. We've always shared the work. Marriage is a partnership.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I've been married for 45 years. We met at 20 and married at 22. For that time period we were very normal. Our backgrounds were similar but different enough to give us some diversity. I was middle-class but poor, she was middle-class but well off. We thought we were overall the same.

She worked and I went to Grad School. Then I worked and she didn't. We had enough money but not much excess.

Then in our 7th year, her Grandmother died. And, without warning, I was married to an heiress. Not millions but enough to make a difference.

At her insistence, we set up our finances as if we both worked for about the same salary (although she had, initially, much greater resources). We have 3 checking accounts -- hers, mine, and ours. Twice a year we look at the ours account and decide what our equal contributions should be for the next 1/2 year.

The remainder of the her account (checking/savings/brokerage) is hers. I don't know it's balance beyond that she's very comfortable. The remainder of my account is treated the same way. When she wanted a European Trip, she bought it. When I wanted a Porsche, I bought it. No permission, no argument.

I don't know what she earns and I don't care.

BTW, we are both "low maintenance" spouses.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Wow, wealth does seem to cause issues in your case. Plus, there should never be yours or mine. All should be ours imho.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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