It is increasingly common for women to earn equal pay or be the breadwinner in the family. This should come as no surprise since women have attended college at a higher rate than men in recent years, and they now make up over half the U.S. workforce. According to the Pew Research Center, this near parity arrived within a few generations — only 3.8% of women earned more than their husbands in 1960. But it is not quite equal yet here in the U.S. – we rank 53 out of a total 153 in equal pay.
Mixed feelings about this
According to a recent article in USA Today, men are okay or “neutral” with their spouse earning more. The spouses, on the other hand, were more likely to have strong emotions about it. Some described themselves as proud, in control and independent, but they were also more likely to feel embarrassed or guilty about their income.
It was also a revelation for some in other ways. For example, recognizing that they are a breadwinner can translate into the fact that they were not destined to be the stay at home mother that raised families in the middle of the 20th century.
Millennials leading the way
According to USA Today, millennial women are twice as likely as baby boomers to earn similar amounts or more than their husbands. However, while 10% of boomers say it causes friction, 20% of millennial women say that it causes friction in their marriage or relationship if one partner earns more.
“Millennials are facing different challenges, such as college debt and cultivating their careers,” Simpson of T.D. Ameritrade points out. “That puts more pressure on them to think about their finances.”
Millennials are also focusing more on their careers before marrying. This not only means financial independence but entrenched habits regarding finances that women in previous generations did not have. It often translates into separate bank accounts for two of every three millennial women.
Divorce now looks different
Millennials divorce at a rate that is down 24% from 1981. These numbers are driven by parents who divorced, less willingness to commit, and more interest in cohabitating before marriage. Still, it is also the overall interest in control of their financial future. While millennial women may feel ambivalent about their earning potential, it does not seem to stop them.
Strategically speaking, both partners building a successful career can make for a more stable marriage. But the fact that one in five millennial marriages experience stress over finances could lead to more divorces in the future. Of course, these will typically look very different than the breadwinner husband paying alimony and child support while the wife continued to raise the family.