Women Breadwinners Quadruple Since 1960

by Scott Sery on June 4, 2013

breadwinnersIt is not hard to see that the social demographics of the country are changing.  However, those changes often go at such a pace that they are hard to see as they are occurring.  Recently Pew Research Center conducted a survey on which parent was the breadwinner in the house, and compared it to the statistics that were found back in 1960.  The changes are considerable, and quite interesting.

The biggest finding of the study is that in 40% of households with children under 18 years old, women are the sole or primary breadwinners.  This is a jump from 11% in 1960.  Of those 40% approximately 25% are un-married single mothers, and 15% are married but earn more than their spouses.

The survey does not just stop at analyzing some numbers however.  There is a deeper look at the social status, race, and all sorts of demographics.  You can read the entire report if you want, but the part I found the most fascinating is people’s attitudes toward women being the primary breadwinners.

There is a common belief that perpetrates our thoughts that the male should earn more than the female.  Or at least that is what the idea used to be.  In fact, when asked if it was bad for the marriage for the wife to earn more than the husband, only 28% agreed.  Part of that may stem from the fact that when the wife out earns the husband, the total family income is higher than if the husband out earns the wife.

Attitudes have even changed from 6 years ago regarding single mothers.  Back in 2007 71% of people surveyed said that the growing number of children born to unmarried mothers was a big problem.  In 2013, that number has dropped to 64%.

A working mother does have its benefits too.  Two thirds of respondents said it is easier to live comfortably if the wife works for pay outside of the home.  However, half of those same people said it is harder to have a successful marriage, and three fourths said it was harder to raise children that way.  In fact, most people still feel that children are better off with the husband at work and the wife at home.

There is a discrepancy in attitudes here.  People do not seem to think it is bad if the wife out earns the husband, and if she does, the family will have more of an income.  But they also feel that it is better if the wife is at home.  People feel a working mother makes it easier to live comfortably, but at the same time it is harder to keep the marriage together and to raise kids properly.  Is this a shift in societal attitude that is valuing money over relationships?  Along those lines, there is less of a concern over single mother, studies have shown that children that grow up in a two parent household are often happier and perform better in school (depending on the nature of the husband/wife relationship of course).

My wife earns more than I do.  Even before I dropped to part-time at the office and spend the majority of my time at home with our son, she still earned more than I did.  It does not have a negative effect on our marriage, society as a whole, or our morals (although these guys over at Fox News seem to think so).  What really matters is that children have a parent that shows an interest in them, loves them, and can stay home with them (regardless of whether or not it is the father or mother).  It doesn’t matter who is home, it matters that they are loved.  Perhaps the biggest issue at stake is that men’s pride is hurt when the wife earns more than he does.  I know for myself it only encouraged me to work harder and start freelancing.

How about you?  Does your spouse earn more than you?  Do you care?

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Scott Sery

Scott Sery is a native to Billings, Montana. Within an hour in nearly any direction he can be found fishing, hunting, backpacking, caving, and rock or ice climbing. With an extensive knowledge of the finance and insurance world, Scott loves to write personal finance articles. When not talking money, he enjoys passing on his knowledge of the back country, or how to live sustainably. You can learn more about Scott on his website Sery Content Development
  • Alexa Mason

    Roles have definitely shifted a little. I do think that it can be beneficial for a marriage for the wife to stay home and take care of the kids and house. I am not against women being the main breadwinners – AT ALL. But I got divorced last year. I am now a single mom and it is VERY hard. It has crossed my mind a couple times that maybe my marriage would have been better if I would have been a stay at home mom.

    • I really think there is no right or wrong answer for this. There are pros and cons to both sides.

  • I couldn’t agree more. Why should the woman have to sacrifice her life and career to stay home with kids if the man might enjoy it? I will make more than my partner in a matter of years, and it would make no sense whatsoever for me to stay home with kids when we have them.

    • From a guys standpoint, I would have no problem if my wife made more than me. In the end of the day the money goes towards our family and we’re both trying to create the best life for our family.

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