More women are outearning their husbands than ever – but we aren’t willing to talk about it

May 9, 2019, 3:11 PM | Updated: 4:30 pm
Wives and husbands...
38 percent of women now outearn their husbands. (Photo: Pexels)
(Photo: Pexels)

More women are the breadwinners in their families than ever before — but couples still aren’t too happy about admitting it.

That’s the clear conclusion of years of data from the U.S. Census Bureau and the Bureau of Labor Statistics: that as much improvement as we’ve been making toward financial equality, the American mindset is still stuck in an older era.

In most cases, men and women both will actively try to hide their earnings gap, and the overall quality of happiness in the marriage will tumble.

The old social norm that the man is supposed to be the breadwinner, it seems, is still alive and well, and, in a world where women are gradually coming closer to achieving equal pay, it affects the way couples see both themselves and each other.

By the numbers

Here’s how having a wife outearn a husband affects a relationship, broken down by the numbers, sourced from Five-Thirty Eight and the U.S. Census Bureau.

  • 38 percent of wives outearn their husbands
  • Men who earn less than their wives are 5 times more likely to cheat
  • Couples are 6 percent more likely to have discussed divorce when woman outearn men
  • Men exaggerate their salaries by 2.9 percent when they earn less than their wives
  • Women deflate their salaries by 1.5 percent when they earn more than their husbands

Clearly, things get a lot worse when a wife gets that promotion that puts her a paygrade above her husband — but the source of all that strife isn’t what you might expect.

According to writer Liza Mundy, it’s actually the wives that struggle the hardest with breaking gender roles.

“I found some men felt threatened by their partners’ high-earning status and retaliated against it, but mainly it was women who were having problems coming to terms with the situation,” Mundy told the Telegraph.

These women struggle with the pressure of being responsible for their family’s welfares and having to take on the stress of work and often become frustrated if they feel like their husbands aren’t carrying their end. And usually, the imbalance doesn’t get corrected at the home.

According to a University of Queensland study, women who outearn their husbands actually take on more housework than those who don’t.

That can affect a lot about how they perceive their husbands. So much so, that some of Mundy’s interviewees reported feeling less attracted to their husbands, as well, and talked about struggling with seeing the men as less masculine.

All the stress that comes with breaking those gender norms can leave women feeling frustrated, and that can lead to disputes that leave the whole family unhappy.

What do you do about it?

So what do you do if your wife earns more than you do?

KSL Newsradio’s Dave & Dujanovic tackled that question, and they offered two simple solutions: just remember that, when you’re married, you’re on the same team. As host Dave Noriega puts it: “Her win is my win.”

Hear all of their advice on the Payday Monday podcast.

Dave & Dujanovic can be heard weekdays from 9 a.m. to noon on KSL Newsradio. Users can find the show on the KSL Newsradio website and app, as well as Apple Podcasts and Google Play.

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More women are outearning their husbands than ever – but we aren’t willing to talk about it