When women are the breadwinners

More and more women are becoming the primary breadwinners of their households and this shift has a lot of interesting implications in society. Already 40 percent of wives are outearning their husbands. Author Liza Munday forecasts that the majority of women will outearn men in 2030.

The recession accelerated this trend, Mundy says, but really it started around 2000-2001. At that point in time, there were more women than men enrolled in colleges and that is now being manifested in better jobs and higher paychecks for women.

Historically, men have handed over their paychecks (and financial responsibility) to women. But surveys show that female breadwinners have more trouble ceding financial and household responsibility to their husbands.

"I think it's just not yet quite embracing the sense that we are breadwinners," Mundy said. "And it is this leftover idea of our money is our pin money to spend."

On the flipside, more husbands have said they are fine with being the secondary breadwinners and having more time to spend with their children. Perhaps due to this transitionary period, many wives say they enjoy the higher paycheck, but feel some guilt about not being more involved in their children's lives.

About the author

Tess Vigeland is the host of Marketplace Money, where she takes a deep dive into why we do what we do with our money.
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But ultimately, could this trend end tragically. I mean let's get completely real. I cannot foresee women making all the money and living in nice homes and buying cars while the majority of men are unemployed, broke, and homeless. There will be a tipping point and I find it implausible that the majority of men will starve rather then do something drastic. Insert domestic violence, murder-suicides, and just plain murder here. Not an advocate, but one can kinda see the forest through the trees on this one. I just can't see the men of this country, when their backs are to the wall, not tipping towards drastic and extreme levels of violence against women. Most women rely on men to protect them in some way, shape, or form. What happens if more men reach the point where they really don't care what happens to women? Already, we see many men who have become indifferent towards women; and that indifference has the potential to turn into hate.

It costs women more to buy health insurance, and women still only make 80% of what men make. Sounds to me like the "new reality" is companies are choosing women for retention and promotion over men because they cost less to employ, and are more likely to step off the achievement ladder for pregnancies limiting their long term earning potential.

Perhaps if there was real parity in the workplace, and women and men could have some flexibility in work scheduling, then both partners would be able to participate equally in the responsibilities and the joys of family life.

Pin money? I am stung by that term. In the 1960's and 1970's, when the workplace was not open to women except for secretarial and back-office positions, my mother went to work to help pay two mortgages and private school tuition after dad was transferred and our previous home did not sell for 2+ years. I encourage writers for whom an idiom was not in common use in their lifetime to do some research, to listen to women of that era speak about their experiences now that these women have found their voices.

After listening to this week's article on the higher costs of goods and services for women vs. men, another thing came to mind. We all know about the charges made for a women's haircut, deodorant and dry cleaning. Are there any common areas where the opposite is true?

"But surveys show that female breadwinners have more trouble ceding financial and household responsibility to their husbands."

Snicker. His money is our money. Her money is her money. Gee, it took surveys and studies to tell us what we already know.

I noticed the same point about 'her money/his money,' Rick. Mundy first said that surveys show that women have a hard time giving up the idea that their earned money was THEIR money, not the whole house's money. She said women would have to learn to 'wrap their heads around it.' How about we don't! How about we just keep it our money and hold on to the privilege. It is historic as Mundy points out that her earned money was hers until modern history, and she had plenty of opportunities to earn a little something something from her household talents. John Bossy, the British historian, remarked that Catholic women rejected the first waves of this very trend during the Reformation when protestantism, always after the buck in the first place, wanted women's labor in their factories where they could profit off it, and Catholic women saw this as a step down and as less free than they were accustomed to. And he's right and it hasn't changed a bit. Let men be the breadwinners still, and let women's money be our money. Regarding Mundy's other little fantasy, that women love to see dads taking care of the kids: sure, until she misses every milestone and every birthday party and her kid misses her, too. Then her heart breaks, but she's trapped in it, the modern world expects it, so she just keeps going, and lies to the Mundys of the world. What we have now is a step down, and let's not 'wrap our heads around it.

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