Powell Radomsky, PLLC

Divorce rates affected by women out-earning husbands

Relationships between men and women are evolving. While much of these changes are welcome, there is no denying that some people are able to manage them better than others. As women continue to excel at their careers, there are many couples that see traditional gender roles flipped – the women are earning more money than the men.

If this describes you and your partner, you might have concerns about how this will affect your relationship in the long run. Though it is not a guarantee, researchers are warning that when women out earn their husbands, it raises the risk of that marriage ending in divorce.

Change is in the air

The most recent findings from the Bureau of Labor Statistics say that over a third of wives in the U.S. are earning more money than their husbands. Though this is welcome news for many people, there are still very strong societal norms that say men should be the family breadwinners. Further, it could make a couple more likely to divorce. When a husband doesn't work full time, he and his wife have a 33% higher risk of divorce.

These findings seem to line up with pervasive attitudes that say it is the man's job to earn money. Only 25% of respondents to a Pew survey think it is extremely important for mothers to financially provide for their children, but 40% think hold that same standard for fathers. Three-quarters of survey respondents claimed that raising children is more difficult due to women being part of the workforce. Though women's salaries are rapidly changing, people's beliefs about that fact are not a quick to catch up.

Why would this affect divorce rates?

Experts speculate that older generations beliefs about women's roles may influence how husbands and wives feel about one another's earning potential. The fact that women still frequently encounter a glass ceiling in the workplace can also convince men that it is normal and even preferable for them to earn more money than their wives.

Certain research also suggests that when a woman earns more than her husband, the couple will report her income as being 1.5 percentage points lower than what she actually makes. If the husband earns more, his income is reported at 2.9 percentage points higher. This may show that there are still expectations in place that the man should be earning more and the woman not as much.

Other factors in play

Married men still earn the most of any group, compared to married women and both single men and women. This could be because of the gender wage gap and men marrying later in life after they have built their career and income level.

Further, men who brag about how much they earn are less likely to get married, and researchers say this could be because they're viewed as being financially insecure. The uncertainty of today's economy has made both men and women see the value of a partner who is financially sound.

Though statistics may indicate higher rates of divorce for women who earn more, it doesn't mean that your marriage will experience this. However, if you're considering divorce here in Virginia for any reason, it is a good idea for you to know your financial status as it compares to your spouse. Different income levels can affect many parts of a divorce agreement.

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