Are Higher Salaries for Women Leading to More Divorces?

wife thinking about divorce because of a high gap in salary with husband

We’ve beaten this issue to death on this blog, but this latest study out of the University of Chicago does a neat job of summarizing the conundrum faced by women who earn more than men. Sure enough, marriages are threatened by a higher-earning wife.

“The evidence suggests that while men tend to applaud their spouses when they help to bring home the bacon, husbands aren’t always as enthusiastic when women start bringing home the filet mignon…While women prefer men to be intelligent and ambitious, men have these preferences for women only to the point where women threaten to earn more than they do.”

It’s not merely that the man is threatened; it’s that the woman looks down on the husband who earns less.

“What happens when a man marries a woman who has the education and skills to earn more than him? The couple can avoid violating the “man earns more” social norm if the woman works part time or leaves the labor force altogether. The authors found evidence of both choices. But what if the woman stays in the labor force and does earn more than her spouse? How does this affect the marriage? The findings here are striking. In such couples, surveys show, both wife and husband generally report being less happy about the marriage…The divorce rate rose by half, to about 18 percent, for couples in which the wife earned more than the husband.”

So what we have here is clear evidence of one thing at this point in time: marriages where the woman earns more are less stable. But that doesn’t begin to answer WHY.

If you’re inclined to side with women on everything, the answer is clear: men are threatened by smart, strong, successful women. Just look at the study! However, if you have the ability to see things from the other side, you’ll get a much more objective picture.

Are women earning more than their husbands because their husbands are unemployed? Because an unemployed husband is a depressed and emasculated husband and that has to put a strain on a marriage. Then there’s the other explanation for the dissolution of these marriages – it’s not merely that the man is threatened; it’s that the woman looks down on the husband who earns less. It would be hard to be in a marriage where your biggest fan looks down on you, no?

The article acknowledges this as well, saying, “Is there any way to tell whether it’s the wife or the husband who becomes unhappy when the wife earns more? Does he think that she is threatening his manliness, or does she think that he’s a slacker?”

In equilibrium, it’s impossible for you to be happier than your spouse.

That may be impossible to answer, but, it doesn’t really matter. In equilibrium, it’s impossible for you to be happier than your spouse.

If you and your spouse both understand that rule, you’re both likely to be happier – regardless of how much money either of you make.

What I coach women is to a) avoid men who are threatened by your success and b) not look down on men who make less than you or worry about dating a guy who makes as much as you. Because if two people make $300K combined, it doesn’t matter if you make $200K and he makes $100K. Really.

Read the article here and share your comments below.

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  1. 61
    Big mess

    My own experience is to be married for 12 years and supporting an unemployed   husband 7 of them. When we met he was earning much more than me, this was an indicator of a hardworking and reliable guy. It was me the one who was underemployed and he had a good and stable job position but he lost it and never found a new job again. Meanwhile I found the job of my dreams, not a six-figure one, but enough to provide  a modest family. My country (not the USA) has a 25% of unemployment rate and it is nearly impossible to find a good job when you loose one.

    I cannot blame my husband  to be unemployed, I have the proof he is actively looking for employment, but this situation is burning my marriage because he is really lazy at home and about  his own grooming. When I met him he was in a great shape, very good looking, but now he is overweight and doesn’t care of himself.  My   job is well paid, I can afford a very large  mortgage (we bought a house when our incomes where 3 times the current) and the bills  but cannot save or buy a new car if gets broken my old one, and this situation seems to last forever.

    My husband spends all of his free time staring the internet and when I arrive home I have an unfair share of household,  maybe he is too macho or too lazy to pick  a wiper… we have had lots of arguments about this matter and I am tired to insist.  I shut my mouth and clean.

    I am still young, slim, very beautiful and guys hit  on me every single day. I have never cheated my husband  but I am starting to see attractive any dude  who pays  his own cup of coffee, and I melt if he invites me… I am not sure if I should gather my courage and end this situation asking for a divorce, or  wait more to see if I can recover my respect towards him if he finds an employment paid enough to help me  with  the bills. If I decide to divorce I’d be  in a very difficult situation, but lately I can’t help to  see myself as her slave. Hiring a male scort  will not  be cheaper, but he’d be younger and better looking anyway.

  2. 62

    Well gee wiz, now with most women today that are so very high maintenance, independent, selfish, spoiled, greedy, picky, and very money hungry, would certainly do it.

  3. 63

    Well lets face the Truth here is that with so many Career women that are so very high maintenance, independent, selfish, spoiled, greedy, picky, and so very money hungry too which has certainly caused many divorces already and will continue to do so unfortunately. Since it is all about the woman today which makes it very sad that they will choose their job over their family which has a lot to do with the divorce rate being so very high now since many of the women will cheat on their spouses as well.

  4. 64

    Most of the career women today do cause divorce do to their greed and selfishness.   And many of them are certainly not marriage material at all to begin with.

    1. 64.1

      @ Hey Ron/Ben/Reality/HonestRealAnswer/Dave/Mike/Reality Hurts/The Truth/RealTruth/RealityCheck/a million other monikers
      Why do you keep writing the same comment here over and over? Are you trying to achieve something in particular? What is your motivation?

  5. 65

    Just trying to make a point since i have a friend that had this happened to him unfortunately since he was a very good husband to his wife which wasn’t good enough for her.

  6. 66
    lynn oliver

    A part of the general more aggressive treatment boys receive from one year onward to make them tough is the granting of love and honor only on some condition of some achievement, status, image, etc.   Incidentally, this more aggressive , less supportive treatment is creating more failing boys and much less successful men.   This whole treatment was designed to keep the esteem of boys and men low so they would keep trying and be more willing to give their lives in time of war for ounces of love and honor from society.   This places a much higher premium on esteem and need for feelings of self-worth.     Boys not achieving are given more ridicule and discipline to make them try harder.   Support is not an option for fear of coddling boys.   As boys grow, they learn to capitalize on their strengths and avoids any weaknesses, for those create more harshness and even abuse by others as is openly allowed by society.   As they become men, they have grown adapt at various means of portraying some semblance of strength to ward off less respectful and more aggressive treatment from others.   This makes it a much more tenuous position for boys and men who are dealing with girlfriends and wives who may be in a stronger position.
    As for us as girls, we are given love and honor for being girls, regardless of our image and status.   The more kind, stable, support we are given by parents, teachers, other, and society given us is creating many more successful women in the information age.   This is greatly apparent in the African American Community where the differential treatment is most highly given.   What is making it tougher for individual marriages is that: 1. As women the protection and support we are given has and maintained for us, much more freedom of expression to state our feelings, ideas, and even give forms of verbal, silent abuse, and hollow kindness with impunity.   We have been doing this for so long, we may not think about it even during some moments where the Male is in a more weakened position.   2.   Due to the false genetic models, we are not attuned to and not aware of the great differential treatment today that is creating more failing boys and men. 3.   That same false, genetic model is creating both false feelings of superiority among those succeeding and false feelings of inferiority for those not succeeding. This mixture of feelings must create some tension in society, especially in areas where such genetics models are more highly valued (middle to upper class areas). 4.   Society is also now creating both in public and the media a real belief, girls and women are smarter. This is creating many more real or imagined micro-abrasions for many boys and men who will tend to hold and accumulate more sensitivity and in time, real hurt from collective effects of those abrasions. 5.   These abrasions will also collectively lower the threshold for resentment and more wariness for others, -yes girls and women individually.   6.   This treatment then causes those boys and men with already low esteem and low feelings of self-worth to begin creating much more distance between themselves and the hurt they will begin to experience from any perceived negative treatment from his girlfriend or spouse and from their friends and family who, due to society’s open belief boys and men should be strong, will invariably treat those boys and men with less respect.   When we understand the whys and the actions society uses almost religiously upon boys, breaking up or divorce becomes an almost certain outcome over time.

  7. 67

    Tom10, Just trying to make a point like i said with my last comment which lets face it many women have become very successful today now that many of the women now that have a career making a very high salary are likely to cause more divorce more than ever. Many women now are making a six figure income which they never ever made before since they have many opportunities and are very independent since they really don’t need a man to survive anymore at all anymore which i will certainly admit that.   But these women unfortunately have become very greedy and selfish too since they really do want it all today which certainly has a lot to do with the divorce rate being so very high nowadays.   Women and men years ago really had it very rough since they were struggling at their jobs which they hardly had any money at all which now women have much more opportunities than many men do which really has changed them.   So for many of us men out there that are still single well this certainly has a lot to do with it since many women now really think that they’re God’s gift to men and have a very serious attitude problem as well since many women now will just want the best of all and will never settle for less unfortunately.   It is very obvious that the world has really changed over the years which men and women should work together no matter how much money he or she makes which if i met a nice woman with a good personality well i wouldn’t care less how much money she makes since most women unfortunately it is all about money for them which is very sad.

      1. 67.1.1

        Hey smart man, why don’t you admit that i am right with my comment? And a lot of what i have said is really the truth.   You should not start a topic like this since many people do have a right to their own opinion. Not trying to be a wise guy but i am very sure many others will agree with me as well.   And if not, oh well.

        1. Evan Marc Katz

          Because any guy who is so insecure that he has to post consecutive comments under the names Ron, Jim and Reality probably isn’t someone to be taken too seriously in an intellectual debate.

  8. 68

    Or maybe not:
    “A study, published in the journal Sociology, found that, overall, couples with children in which the wife or female partner earns the higher salary are no less stable than those in which the man earns the most.
    But among couples with nursery-age children, those with  a female breadwinner  are up to 80 per cent less likely to separate, it added.”

  9. 69
    Been there

    Q. What is the root of the problem here?
    A. We now see a whole new generation where it is common for wives to pursue their own career. My parents were the last old school generation where the wife was EXPECTED to stay home and care for the children and the home.

    The change we now see is not merely an assault on the male ego it is a primal change for men, who, since fire was discovered were the hunters and their women bore and cared for their children. It is in our DNA.

    This is also why when women think they are doing more than the man in terms of child care and house chores they don’t get the same “appreciation” as men. It is primal.

    Therefore, in every marriage where both spouses work there is every possibility that the woman will make more financially than the man. Again, it is in every man’s DNA to bear the responsibility of supporting his family financially.

    Therefore, in the situation where he either makes much less than his wife or is jobless altogether there is more than just ego being stripped from him. In a Christian family where I come from we believe that financial blessings are provided by God for the good of the family. Hence, the husband can look at his situation positively knowing his family will stay above water and will always be supportive of his wife’s success.

    There is an imbalance of power, as it were, that is hitherto alien to men. And here is where the “good” wife ought to step up for the good of their marriage.

    Here are my suggestions to women in this situation:

    1. Never stop being supportive of your husband in his difficult times. Do not doubt that he is doing his best to find a job or do better at work;

    2. Now that you are financially stronger than him be more considerate of what bills he can or cannot foot. Never take it against him if he can’t and don’t expect him to ask you if you can. This is what it means to be considerate;

    3. Life is a roller coaster ride, now you are high but who knows for how long. The tables can turn just as easily and mysteriously for both so be kind to one another. You vowed to stay together through thick and thin so stay true to your vow no matter how hard it may be for you, the more successful woman.

    I firmly believe in God’s providence. Just imagine if both of you were jobless with young children and bills to pay. Be grateful both of you and for the more blessed career woman don’t forget your blessings are there to be shared with your family, your husband included, jobless or not. Marriage is all about selflessness of husband and wife.

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