Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Marriage Means More Money For Men?

It's being reported all over the news that men get an "economic boost" from marriage. See this story from Associated Press writer David Crary. Let's take a look.

The changes, summarized in a Pew Research Center report being released Tuesday, reflect the proliferation of working wives over the past 40 years - a period in which American women outpaced men in both education and earnings growth.

Ah. So if a man has a wife who is out there fighting in the corporate world, he'll be better off financially. What they don't tell you is that your wife will be too tired or too upset about something at the office to make love, strangers will be raising your children (and you'll be paying for them to do it), and you'll be paying more in taxes. But hey, you'll have more money! And if she earns more than you do, she'll likely have more resentment for you and less respect.

A larger share of today's men, compared with their 1970 counterparts, are married to women whose education and income exceed their own, and a larger share of women are married to men with less education and income.
Well, yes, but the majority of women still marry men who earn more than they do.

One barometer is median household income — which rose 60 percent between 1970 and 2007 for married men, married women and unmarried women, but only 16 percent for unmarried men, according to the Pew data.
Ah-ha! Clearly an example of sexism against unmarried men, right? Actually, unmarried men were already earning more before. So this is married men playing catch-up.

In 1970, according to the report, 28 percent of wives in this age range had husbands who were better educated than they were, outnumbering the 20 percent whose husbands had less education. By 2007, these patterns had reversed — 19 percent of wives had husbands with more education, compared with 28 percent whose husbands had less education.
Academia is more hostile to men now, and a man is expected to go out and support himself and his family, which often means dropping out of school. It is more socially acceptable for a woman to live with her parents, or go to school to find herself while her husband works.

Only 4 percent of husbands had wives who earned more than they did in 1970, compared with 22 percent in 2007.
If I were a wagerin' man, I'd bet that the wives who earned more were more likely to be unattractive/overweight than the wives who earned less/nothing. The higher the income of the husband, the more physically attractive the wife is likely to be. These are generalities to be sure, but you see this verified everywhere.

Here comes the tired old comparison – you knew it would be included:

According to 2009 Census Bureau figures, women with full-time jobs earned salaries equal to 77.9 percent of what men earned, compared with 52 percent in 1970.
Women, as a group, earn less than men, as a group. This is true. But men are more likely to die on the job. Men and women often do DIFFERENT JOBS. Men are naturally more aggressive and work more hours, so they may earn more in commission-based jobs, and are more likely to ask for larger raises more often. When you compare men and women who are doing the same kind, level, quality, and quantity of work, with the same amount of experience – there is little to no gap.

The Pew researchers noted that the economic downturn is reinforcing the gender reversal trends, with men losing jobs more often than women.
Yup. I won't expect NOW to fret about this.

The Pew report found that unmarried women in 2007 had higher household incomes than their 1970 counterparts at each level of education, while unmarried men without post-secondary education lost ground because their real earnings decreased and they didn't have a wife's wages to offset that decline.

Unmarried men with college degrees made income gains of 15 percent, but were outpaced by the 28 percent gains of unmarried women with degrees.
I'd like to know about married men who are the sole breadwinners, and how they are doing compared to 1970.

So the lesson of this report is that women are earning more than before, so when a man marries one of these women, they have a higher household income. Duh.

What these reports don't mention is that men who earn more than their wives will lose some of that in the event of divorce, more if there are children. For a husband who is the sole income earner, even if he is earning more than his unmarried counterpart, the fact is – half of that is his wife's, and more if she leaves and takes the kids.

I do believe that the average man is much better off if he marries the right woman than if he stays unmarried – a woman who is fiscally responsible and shrewd when it comes to shopping and spending; one who offers helpful feedback about professional matters and helps her husband with networking. If she cooks, and he'd otherwise eat out, it is even better. But a married man is likely paying for all sorts of things an unmarried man isn't.

Also, something the report touched on was a drop in the percentages of households that are married. People are waiting longer to marry, giving men a chance to establish themselves and earn more before marrying. So of course the guy who marries at 32 is earning more than the guy who married at 19 and had to forgo certain educational and professional opportunities. It is easier for an unmarried man to continue his education, network over lunch and after-hours social events, work longer hours and extra days, relocate, take a new position, etc.

From what I've read, studies show married men in general – so not just the ones marrying career women – do earn more than unmarried men. But as I already pointed out, that income is not his to do with it as he pleases. Also, perhaps it is the men who earn more or have the potential to earn more who get married. As was said over at The Opine Editorials:

As a married man, I'd like to believe that marriage does make someone [wealthier], as many studies report. But I do have to wonder if the correlation is entirely one-directional, or if [wealthier] people or people with [more earning potential] are more likely to get married in the first place? I mean, all other things being equal, who is attracted to and wants to marry someone who is [poor]? While we can get averages, we can't compare me, a married father at my age, to me at the same age having never been married or a father. We can't compare John Doe #1, unmarried and childless at his age, to John Doe #1, same age, married and with children
Ultimately, though, even if marriage could be proven to be a cause of men earning more, there are unmarried men who maintain they'd rather have a lower income than get married. They can do just fine with a lower income, and enjoy the freedom of being able to work less and spend their free time doing whatever they want to do.


  1. Anonymous3:15 PM

    Much of the "advancement" of women has come at the expense of children and families. Corporations love-- everybody has to put their shoulder to the wheel!

    Will some woman please explain to me how much better our society is since women are now more than half the workforce? Please?

  2. I'm glad my sisters and daugther have real choices in their life. I'm glad they can choose to climb the corporate ladder, and if that's what they want to do - then great. What I think is bad is that too many women try to do it ALL at the same time... the hubby, the kids, the career, and whatever else. It rarely, if ever, works out well. Secondly, if they do have kids, rather than having both working full-time out of the home, I think things would be better if the father is a the primary caretaker if the women is climbing the ladder.

    Instead, we have both parents working full time outside the home, and government likes the tax revenue, and business likes the choice of labor AND the spending from the two incomes.


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