MEN AND MARRIAGE

February 17, 2010

In earlier generations marriage allowed women to achieve economic security, now, it appears, men are more likely to benefit, according to a Pew Research Center study. 

The root cause is the spread of women's higher education, say the researchers: 

  • For the first time in American history there are more female than male college graduates among this age group.
  • In contrast, in 1970, almost twice as many men as women in the age group 30-44, had college degrees.
  • The result is that in the half of households where one partner has more education, it is now more likely to be the wife who has more; in 1970, it was usually the husband. 

Income tends to rise with education, and women's earnings have risen relative to men's at every level of schooling, say the researchers: 

  • Men's income is still, on average, higher, but women have been narrowing the gap and adding more to household earnings.
  • In 1970, only a few wives contributed more than their men with only 4 percent earning more than their husbands; in 2007, 22 percent did. 

That represented a rise in social mobility.  But with it went an apparent decline in another aspect of mobility: more people seem to be marrying within their education and income bracket, especially at the top, say the researchers: 

  • The best educated and highest-earning husbands in 2007 were more likely to have the highest-income wives than was the case in 1970.
  • At the bottom of the education heap, too, men are less likely to have wives who earn a lot.
  • Forty years ago, half of husbands who dropped out of high school had wives who earned more than the average for women; now just 30 percent do.  

The economic gains from marriage have accrued more to men than to women, but there is one other way in which the growing economic clout of women increases their power within marriage.  According to Pew, in households where the husband earns more, women are still just as likely to make the final decisions regarding household finances; where the wife earns more, she is more than twice as likely to do so. 

Source: Observers, "Men and marriage," The Economist, January 28, 2010. 

For text:

http://www.economist.com/world/united-states/displaystory.cfm?story_id=15394255

 

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