Men get stressed if wives earn more than 40% of household income


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Gender norms have been baked into society over hundreds of years, making them hard to shift.

But in the words of Bob Dylan, the times they are a-changin'.

"What we are seeing is some emerging rebalancing between the genders with regards to work and income, though the changes we are seeing have so far been fairly subtle," says Professor Roger Wilkins from the University of Melbourne.

men stress breadwinner

"The gender pay gap is still big but it is narrowing. While average wages growth in Australia remains slow, underneath that we are seeing declines for men but real increases for women."

Yet a study of heterosexual marriages in the US shows men are having a hard time letting go of their role as primary breadwinners.

Husbands are least stressed when their wives earn up to 40% of household income. But husbands become more uncomfortable when their spouse's income rises beyond this point, and are most stressed when they are completely economically dependent on their partner.

"These findings suggest that social norms about male breadwinning - and traditional conventions about men earning more than their wives - can be dangerous for men's health," says research author Dr Joanna Syrda, an economist at the University of Bath's School of Management.

"They also show how strong and persistent are gender identity norms."

This is backed up by behavioural economist Gigi Foster of the University of New South Wales.

"[Syrda's] results are intuitively plausible and not inconsistent with what I've seen in my research with Leslie Stratton on mixed-gender couples, where we find stronger negative effects of female breadwinning on men's satisfaction in less-educated partnerships and on satisfaction in cohabiting, rather than married partnerships," Foster told Money.

Positive change is on the horizon, however.

Foster's research also found "a decline over time in the importance of the male breadwinning norm, particularly for more-educated couples, together with the continued relevance of partner-market dynamics in a world in which the average man earns more than his partner".

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David Thornton was a journalist at Money from September 2019 to November 2021. He previously worked at Your Money, covering market news as producer of Trading Day Live. Before that, he covered business and finance news at The Constant Investor. David holds a Masters of International Relations from the University of Melbourne.
Mike Richards
November 20, 2019 9.10pm

The gender pay gap has been proven to be a furphy, based on the career choices, hourly rates and time spent out of the workforce that women have. Let's compare apples with apples now.

That's why there are few male teachers and even fewer male childcare workers / nurses...because childcare wages are so bad, and who would be a male teacher (or male childcare worker) nowadays, when any unfounded accusation can end your career ? No thanks.

In State / Federal Government, everyone gets a classification and that's what you're paid at, regardless of gender. However, thanks to affirmative action "diversity" and "equality" policies, the days of being promoted on merit are gone and if you're a white male, you've got very little chance of being promoted (esp. in Education or Human Services) compared to your female colleagues.

In one department, they need to have a minimum of 50% women interview candidates, otherwise, they don't hold an interview. So if you have three men and one woman go for the job (because that's all you have), they won't hold an interview. How does THAT help anyone, male or female ?!

For example, women are more likely to be childcare / retail workers, whereas men are more likely to go into jobs like construction, physically hard trades (building) and mining, where the big dollars are, but also, are the more dangerous occupations in terms of workplace injuries (esp. chronic ones for trades...ever seen a concreter or a plasterer in their 50s ? Their shoulders and knees are done).

If there really was a pay gap, then why, with all the advantages afforded to them, do women settle for it ? Because I can tell you this - a man wouldn't.

P.S. I don't particularly care if my wife earned more than me, we're all on the same side and the same family the last time I looked.