Income Gender Role Reversal

marriage-breadwinnerLove or money?

Historically, a question posed only about women marrying male breadwinners.

But now, this same question applies to men, as well.



Because, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 40% of American women are now the breadwinners of the family. And this, as reported by The Wall Street Journal, creates a new strain of marital tension between “an alpha woman and a beta man.”

According to the Center for American Progress, income level has a lot to do with it. Their April 2012 findings reveal that 34% of wives in families earning incomes which fall within the top 20% are breadwinners. Conversely, 70% of wives in families earning incomes which fall within the bottom 20% are breadwinners.

Says The Wall Street Journal, “Roughly half of wives are the breadwinners in middle-income families.” As well, WSJ reports that “a recent poll of 400 female breadwinners conducted by the women’s financial media site [shows] only 22% of wives without children felt a negative impact on their marriages. But it was a different story for women with children—36% felt their higher earnings had a negative effect.


Who’s the breadwinner in your family?

How do you feel about this modern day gender role reversal?


World News Wednesday



Image: David Arky/Corbis

8 thoughts on “Income Gender Role Reversal

  1. It’s only when one person holds the fact that they make more over the other person’s head that it becomes a problem. If both people work hard for their money then it shouldn’t matter what they make.

  2. I think the fate of relationships and this supposed role reversal depends on your perspective. Just because a woman is the breadwinner doesn’t mean she’s the alpha. Historically, even in matriarchal societies there wasn’t a 180 degree shift in power. There was a more equitable distribution of power. Women were more concerned with the common good than discriminating, objectifying, or otherwise exploiting men. So, I question the expectation that women would do the same.

    Some men still believe (and their wives right along with them) that who ever earns the money, owns the money. And whoever pays for something, owns it as well. The other partner has no claim to any of that. That perspective is antiquated and a result of men using money to control women for many many years.

    • Thank you for this informative comment. Very valid points, here. Most especially the belief that the breadwinner controls all – which, I think, moves beyond belief into the realm of fact expressed systemically, for instance, by banks which insist upon a primary account holder (i.e. the breadwinner) thereby relegating the assumed non-earning spouse to second position of importance. There are even forms, and places of business which force you to choose a title (i.e. Dr., Mr., Mrs., Miss, etc.) wherein choosing “Dr.” automatically assigns your sex as “Male” in their system – which prevents women from choosing “Dr.” if they want the correct sex assigned to them. So, yes, I very much agree with you that the perspective is antiquated. But, sadly, still in play… 😐

  3. My husband and I have been married for 28 years. I always earned more than he did, and in retirement, the same is still true. It really hasn’t been a problem.

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