NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Earners' Gender Identity and Relative Income within Households

When a woman's potential or real income is more than a man's, it can reduce marriage rates [and] women's labor force participation after marriage.

Women experienced increases in their incomes and labor force participation rates in the second half of the last century, with the most rapid gains in the early part of that period. In Gender Identity and Relative Income Within Households (NBER Working Paper No. 19023), Marianne Bertrand, Jessica Pan, and Emir Kamenica examine some of the consequences of this shift. They conclude that the gender identity of earners within households has pronounced financial and social effects.

In particular, they focus on the aversion to wives earning more than husbands. They establish that when a woman's potential or real income is more than a man's, it can reduce marriage rates, women's labor force participation after marriage, wives' future income, and marriage satisfaction. A wife earning more than a husband also can lead to increases in the distribution of household chores toward women and to a slight increase in the likelihood of divorce.

The authors stress that more needs to be known about the long-run effects of the gender composition of earnings. Also, the behavioral prescription that "a man should earn more than his wife" may not be as strong today as it has been in past decades and may well be evolving, thus affecting future gender economic and social dynamics.

--Jay Fitzgerald

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