More Moms Becoming the Family Breadwinner

Filed under: In The News

For the first time ever, women really are bringing home more bacon than men -- and their husbands may be the ones frying it up in a pan.

A report from the Pew Research Center released last week shows that marriage has undergone significant changes over the last several decades as women's earning power and education outpaced that of their spouses. And, according to The New York Times, that's making many couples happier than ever.

While men and women still may be getting used to the shift, the overall effect seems to be positive. Men are taking on more housework and women are earning more outside the home, and -- surprise! -- divorce rates are declining.

"Women no longer need to marry up educationally or economically, so they are more likely to pick men who support a more egalitarian relationship," Stephanie Coontz, director of research and education for the Council on Contemporary Families and author of "Marriage, A History: How Love Conquered Marriage," tells the Times.

The divorce rate peaked in the late 1970s, at 23 divorces per 1,000 couples, according to the Times. But it has since dropped: There are fewer than 17 divorces per 1,000 marriages today. And, according to a report from the Center for American Progress, statistics show that, typically, women with economic independence and education are more likely to stay married.

And, get this: In states where fewer wives have paid jobs, divorce rates are higher.

While the earnings gap has yet to close completely, women age 30 to 44 now make up the majority of U.S. college graduates, and their earnings grew 44 percent from 1970 to 2007, according to the Pew study. That's compared to a six percent growth in earnings for men over the same time period.

What does this mean for men? In some cases, it means that roles will be reversed. Cynthia and Brian Walder of West Springfield, Mass., tell the Times that, for them, it made more sense for Brian to stay home with the kids while Cynthia works. A surprise set of twins sealed the deal, making day care costs prohibitive for the family.

"Someone had to leave their job and stay home," Cynthia Walder, who is 34, tells the newspaper. Brian, 36, opted to be the one to give up his job.

Ladies, don't get too excited -- research shows that you still bear the brunt of household responsibilities in spite of your earning power. The University of Wisconsin's National Survey on Households and Families shows that among dual earning couples, women still do two-thirds of the housework. The good news, though, is that men are now spending more time with their kids. The same survey reveals that the amount of time dads spend with their children has tripled.

Just ask Brian Walder, who says he loves his new gig as Mr. Mom.

"If you asked me a year ago, I had the harder job," he tells the Times. "But now that I've got it, I love it. I wouldn't want to give it up."

Who is the major breadwinner in your family?

Related: Married With Children ... and More Perks at Work?


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