When women out-earn men

Published: Saturday, May 25 2013 10:30 a.m. MDT

A recent study finds that women who earn more than their potential spouse are more likely to have negative economic or family outcomes. But attitudes may be changing among young people toward supporting dual-career households.

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Finding a spouse and maintaining a strong family life can be difficult for a high-earning woman, according to a new study out of the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.

The researchers found that if a woman out-earns a potential husband, the two are less likely to get married. Within couples, if a wife's potential income is likely to exceed her husband's, the wife is less likely to be in the labor force, and if she does work, she will probably earn less than her potential. Additionally, if a woman makes more than her husband, she is more likely to take on a greater percentage of domestic work than a woman who makes less than her husband.

Most disheartening, the study concluded that, “the couples where the wife earns more than the husband report being less happy, report greater strife in their marriage, and are ultimately more likely to get a divorce.”

Women’s incomes are likely to keep rising relative to men’s. Women in America are currently enrolling in college at higher rates than men by a ratio of 1.4 to 1, according to Inside Higher Ed. As more women become educated and enter into higher-paying employment fields, the issues raised by the Chicago Booth study could have important implications for maintaining supportive and stable families.

In her best-selling book about advancing as a woman in a high-powered career, "Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead," Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg devoted an entire chapter to the importance of a supportive spouse, titled “Make Your Partner a Real Partner.”

“I truly believe that the single most important career decision that a woman makes is whether she will have a life partner and who that partner is,” Sandberg wrote. “I don't know of a single woman in a leadership position whose life partner is not fully — and I mean fully — supportive of her career. No exceptions.”

Among the millenial generation, attitudes may be shifting to a more supportive model for women to pursue high-paying jobs. Recent research from Stewart Friedman of the Wharton School of Business shows that changing viewpoints among young men and women may be creating a more conducive environment for both genders to share equally in work both inside and outside the home.

"Young men graduating today are more egalitarian in their views and women are, well, more realistic," Stewart said. "The important point is that men and women today are more likely than the previous generation to share the same values about what it takes to make dual-career relationships work."

EMAIL: dmerling@deseretnews.com

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