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