She Makes More Than He Does

What Women Really Think
Nov. 2 2009 12:47 PM

She Makes More Than He Does

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Did you know that more than one third of married women in the U.S. now out-earn their husbands? That’s what the latest government statistics tell us. That's compared to roughly 24 percent back in 1987. And we can assume the number is only going to go up during our economic crisis as more men than women are losing their jobs.

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I’m interested in what this means in terms of lifestyles, particularly as it relates to families. Typically, the higher earner works longer hours. But the bigger paycheck can also be a reflection of the type of work done. In my book, The Comeback , I told the story of Elaine Stone, who is a partner at a Washington D.C. law firm. She makes more money than her husband, Warren, who is a rabbi. Nothing surprising about that. And obviously money can reflect the desirability and status of the worker. (Does Brad make more than Angelina?)

You might think 33.5 percent is nothing to get excited about. But analysts are saying that the percentage is going to increase more and more during the next few years. "If you walk down the streets of Manhattan, London, or Frankfurt today," Boston Consulting Group’s Michael J. Silverstein told Newsweek , "and you ask 100 single men and women between the ages of 25 and 30 what they make, the women will make more."

The statistic contains the small but significant (and growing) number of fathers who have chosen to be the stay at home parent in a family.

Does it matter to you who makes what amount in your household? I know it makes a difference in one particular example: how childcare is paid for. Mothers tend to deduct that cost from their own paycheck instead of the combined family income.

But I wonder whether the higher earner has more status at home if she is a woman? Does she assume more or less responsibility around the house? Is she working longer hours? Is her job more stressful? What does all of this mean in terms of who deals with the kids?

Traditionally, women have always been in charge of the domestic spending, even when we weren’t making the money that we spent. We picked the appliances, the food, the clothing, and the vacation spots. We still do that, but do we do it differently if we are spending what we have made ourselves? How about saving? Do we get more involved in where we save, when it is our own money we are salting away?

I would really like to hear some stories behind this growing trend. If yours is the larger paycheck, please write to me and give me a sense of your family’s lifestyle, expenditure, and employment. Send your e-mails to emma@thecomebackbook.com , and I’ll post them. If you have any advice to share, pass that along too. This might be the natural point to remind everyone that we at Your Comeback don’t pay for submissions.

Photograph of a couple at an ATM by Jack Hollingsworth/Getty Images.