New Study Reveals: Female Breadwinner Leads to a Happy Marriage

A female breadwinner at work, helping provide for her family and work toward a happy marriage

A female breadwinner at work, helping provide for her family and work toward a happy marriage |

Taking all of the right steps to have a long and happy marriage still isn’t enough to ensure anything. Over the years, things can, quite simply, go wrong. Whether it’s inter-relationship conflict due to infidelity, or outside economic forces creating a rift, there’s not a lot that you can do to be absolutely sure your marriage will last. But you can do your due diligence and take measures to increase the odds. The latest of which, as researchers have uncovered, is having a female breadwinner in the house.

If you follow the latest research, you know that making a happy marriage last requires things like job security. But that’s just one element; there are a lot of things that can cause an otherwise great relationship to derail. And as mentioned, social scientists have recently found that when wives are working — and interestingly enough, out-earning their husbands — quality of life and well-being goes up considerably for both.

In other words, being the breadwinner can and is unhealthy for men. Who saw that coming?

This conclusion comes from a recently published study from researchers at the University of Connecticut, led by Christin Munsch, an assistant professor of sociology, along with graduate students Matthew Rogers and Jessica Yorks. According to their work, which was presented at the latest meeting of the American Sociological Association, men who shared the heaviest load of financial security for their families had worse well-being and health outcomes.

Essentially, the more a wife shares in bolstering a household’s earnings, the better off husbands tend to be.

A married couple discuss finances

Couple discussing finances |

The study’s findings strike at the heart of gender expectations and provides us with more evidence that the “old model” of marriage — that is, the husband goes to work while the wife stays at home with the kids — was rife with failure tripwires. Of course, plenty of happy marriages have survived that old model, but in a new era where household earnings are down or flat, and expenses are up, two incomes are obviously going to help maintain security.

“A lot of what we know about how gender plays out in marriage focuses on the ways in which women are disadvantaged,” said Munsch, via a UConn press release. “Our study contributes to a growing body of research that demonstrates the ways in which gendered expectations are harmful for men too. Men are expected to be breadwinners, yet providing for one’s family with little or no help has negative repercussions.”

From that release, this is the real meat of the findings: “Men with the worst psychological well-being and the worst health were those who made significantly more than their partners. In the years when men were their family’s only earner, for example, they had lower psychological well-being and health scores, on average, than in those years their partners contributed equally.”

It continues, “Breadwinning has the opposite effect for women, whose psychological well-being improved as they made greater economic contributions. Conversely, as they contributed less relative to their spouses, psychological well-being declined. Relative income was unrelated to women’s health.”

Young couple with matching tattoos kissing

Young couple with matching tattoos kissing |

The UConn study reveals a pretty interesting counter-argument about gender expectations. Namely, that the previously mentioned “old model” of marriage, in which the male was the sole breadwinner for a family, is not as much of an advantage for men as originally thought. Being the sole earner basically means you can count on poorer health, and being less happy.

As Munsch said, “Our study finds that decoupling breadwinning from masculinity has concrete benefits for both men and women.”

The materials did not mention same-sex couples, likely because those marriages have only been legal for a short time, and data was unavailable. As far as other factors that may have skewed the findings, UConn’s release does mention that “the researchers considered a number of alternative explanations for their findings, including age, education, absolute income, and number of hours worked per week. However, these variables did not account for their findings.”

While there is no 100% guarantee that you’ll ever have a happy marriage or marry the right person, this study gives us a little more insight into what you can do to make a relationship last. There are many economic factors that play into whether or not a marriage is successful or not, and as UConn’s researchers have found, sharing the financial burden can make a big difference.

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