From Breadmaker to Breadwinner

More women out-earn and out-smart their husbands, a new Pew study concludes: how is this affecting marriages and families?

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Are so-called "sugar daddies" on the way out? A new Pew study shows that wives are increasingly becoming the highest earners in American households. In the 1970s, a bachelor was better off financially than a married man. But more and more, men are profiting--financially--from marriage. In 1970, only 4% of husbands made less than their wives. In 2007, that number has ballooned to 22%, according to the Pew Research Center. The study also shows that women are increasingly marrying less educated men. How is this affecting gender roles? Here's how pundits are spinning the new data:
  • Changes Male Assumptions About Marriage, says Richard Fry of the Pew study: "When you think about it from a guy's perspective, marriage wasn't such a great deal... It raised a household size, but it didn't bring in a lot more income."
  • A Profitable (But Risky!) Investment, writes Brad Tuttle at Time: "Guys: If you want to bump up your financial status, and to hedge your bets in uncertain economic times, getting hitched is the way to go, apparently. Then again, some marriages are way more unstable than the stock market, or even real estate in South Florida."
  • This Isn't the Whole Story, writes Everything Must Go, a blog about gender issues. Though marriage seems like a good financial move, "what they don't tell you is that your wife will be too tired or too upset about something at the office to make love, strangers will be raising your children (and you'll be paying for them to do it), and you'll be paying more in taxes. But hey, you'll have more money!"
  • No Cause for Celebration, writes Douglas McIntyre at 24/7 Wall Street: "The news does not mean much to women at the highest level of the employment ladder. There are still remarkably few female CEOs and very few board members at large companies. Women may be out-earing their husbands in more cases, but that does not mean that the cause of equal pay is by any means over." Alex DiBranco agrees: "Sorry to dash anyone's hopes of on the probability of finding a sugar momma. But hey--fight for equal pay and an end to sex discrimination, and the dream could come true!"
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.