Do Men Feel Stress When Their Wives Earn More Than They Do?

Even though we haven’t solved the equation of equal pay for the same job that a man and woman do at work, there is a new phenomenon going on where husbands around America are literally becoming clinically depressed because their wives earn more than they do at work. Say what? Yes, as times are changing in America, more men are uncertain about their roles at home and how to handle new responsibilities in their families.

According to Pew Research, in 1980 13% of women earned more than their husbands in income.  By 2013, 38% of women earned more than their husbands in income. Now, that number has crossed over 40% and is climbing.  The stereotype of ‘male breadwinners’ is changing for sure, and there is a new dynamic that families have to deal with as they handle responsibilities and money control at home.

Interestingly enough, there is actually a magic number that once triggered at home can make men psychologically distressed when it comes to who earns what at the workplace. That magic number is 40%.  When a wife earns 40% of the household income or more, men begin to have mental health issues, elevated levels of stress, and increased anxiety at home. You’d think that this would be a good thing: you have another person earning income at home.

However, the data is starting to show that men are having a really hard time handling this new money puzzle at home. The only exception to this rule is when a woman earns the same amount of income or more before the marriage, then it does not have the same impact when it is a known quantity. However, if a stay at home Mom goes back to work and then out earns her husband, stress levels go way up for the husband.

Most men (according to a study of 6,000 couples) believe the right ratio is where men earn more than 60% of the household income and women earn less than 40% of the household income. Is this an ego issue? Is this a control issue? Is this an ‘I’m not sure where I fit’ issue? The gender norms that put the male as the major breadwinner and the major role for men are changing as equal pay gets closer and closer. Opportunities are soaring for women for higher and higher paying jobs. Women say that their husbands can be twice as stressful as the children especially when it comes to these types of money issues within the family.

I still feel the most underrated and underpaid job in America is the stay at home parent.  It doesn’t matter whether it is a man or a woman, the stay at home job has no mid-year review, no pay raise, and often no thank you cards. Your gratification comes from making sure your family and your house are running smooth like a business. We are going to need to alter our own social norms over the next ten to twenty years more households become two income versus one. Every job has value and both of you can really add to the bottom line of your family whether it be making money or putting in time to create a better life for your family.

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