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New Study Says the Financial Gender Balance Can Predict Divorce

New Study Says the Financial Gender Balance Can Predict Divorce

By: M. Scott Gordon

A new MarketWatch examines the ways in which the “financial gender balance,” or the earning differences in heterosexual married couples, impacted their likelihood of getting divorced. As the article highlights, “when wives earn more than their husbands, some men just can’t handle it.” Indeed, in marriages where the wife earns significantly more than her husband over a longer period of time, there is a higher likelihood the marriage will end in divorce.

More Wives Earn More Than Their Husbands Than Ever Before

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) shows “it’s increasingly common for wives to make more than their husbands.” To be sure, in approximately 38 percent of heterosexual marriages in the U.S., the wife earns more than the husband. In many of these marriages, the couple ends up behaving in ways that suggest a discomfort with the income disparity.

Most notably, figures from the U.S. Census Bureau show that, in marriages where the wife is the higher earner, self-reported data on income from the marriage does not match actual income. The couples, on average, report that the wife earns 1.5 percentage points less than her actual income and that the husband earns 2.9 percentage points more than the actual income. Although stereotypes about who earns more money—the husband or the wife—have only been stereotypes and have not reflected relationships in fact for a number of years, the data suggests that older biases still exist.

How Husbands Can Perceive Finances and Control of the Family

To be clear, for some couples where the wife is the higher earner or even the primary breadwinner, issues of gender discrimination and bias do not clearly make their way into the marriage. For many others, however, the fact that society continues to “put a higher value on husbands who earn more than their wives” takes a toll on the relationship. As the article underscores, “even in 2019, old-fashioned views on marriage prevail.”

For some husbands who earn less than their wives, they view income as part of a larger question about who controls the finances in the relationship and, thus, the family. For example, one husband cited in the article said his marriage suffered because “his wife did most of the planning and had the last word on managing their lives.” That individual went on to explain that “he only felt they could get back on an equal footing when he earned as much, if not more, than his wife.”

The bottom line appears to be this: Generally speaking, in current marriages where the wife earns more than the husband and does for a lengthy period of time, the marriage is more likely to end in divorce. There are many factors that play into this conclusion, from social and cultural assumptions about what makes a successful marriage to issues of ego.

Learn More from a Divorce Attorney

Regardless of your reasons for considering divorce, an experienced Chicago divorce lawyer can discuss your case with you today. An advocate at our firm can explain how the divorce process in the Chicago area works and what your next steps might be. Contact M. Scott Gordon & Associates today.