A new report from the Pew foundation delves into "Women, Men, and the New Economics of Marriage," but judging from media reactions to the data, it really should have been titled "The Rise of the Sugar Mama."
Many of the stories discuss the net benefit to men having a solvent spouse and how it can improve quality of life overall. An article from the Associated Press hones in on the area of the Pew study that explains how the changing trends in marriage impact household incomes:
One barometer is median household income - which rose 60 percent between 1970 and 2007 for married men, married women and unmarried women, but only 16 percent for unmarried men, according to the Pew data.
NPR looks at the data from the angle of working through some of the shifts in cultural expectations that can place strains on marriages. After demonstrating the historical changes (like how up until 1964, it was legal to fire a woman if she got married), the article refers to how some men feel shameful dipping into their wives' money, or feel as though they are failing as men if their spouse is the breadwinner for the household. The piece also contains an interesting supplement to the main article:
Black wives have long been more likely than whites to be in the labor force. Already in 1970, black women faced a marriage gap: Those with college degrees were more likely to be married. That remains true today. But as the Pew report notes, marriage overall has declined more sharply among African-Americans than the population as a whole.
What NPR turns into a footnote, the New York Times flips into a trend piece. While the Pew Study is about men marrying women who are higher earners and higher educated, the New York Times put its piece squarely in familiar territory - the single, high earning professional female who can't find a man.
Ms. Zielinski, the fashion stylist, said her best friend, a man, told her once: " ‘You are confident, have good credit, own your own business, travel around the world and are self-sufficient. What man is going to want you?' He laughed, but I found that pretty depressing."
The spin on this one can't be any clearer:
An analysis of census data to be released Tuesday by the Pew Research Center found that she and countless women like her are victims of a role reversal that is profoundly affecting the pool of potential marriage partners.
The Washington Post provides perspectives from female journalists in two different articles on the research. Donna St. George tackles the Pew findings, and pays careful attention to an assertion that wives are the higher income spouses. In two separate paragraphs, she stresses how women are not out earning their spouses.
Men are still the major contributors of household income — with 78 percent making at least as much or more than their wives — but the percentage of women whose income has outpaced their husband's has more than quadrupled, jumping from just 4 percent in 1970 to 22 percent now.
Men still out-earn women, but the gap is narrowing. In 2007, full-year women workers had median earnings of about $33,000, which was 71 percent of men's median earnings of about $46,000. Back in 1970, women's earnings were 52 percent of men's.
It's true that more and more women are becoming the main breadwinners in the household but tremendous gains don't necessarily translate to paycheck parity.
Petula Dvorak, writing for the Washington Post also looks at the underside of the data in her column, noting: "It continues to be a man's world, only a little more comfy these days." Dvorak explains that while marriage becomes a sweeter deal for men, studies about women report increasing levels of unhappiness; she zeroes in on one of the major issues of discord - that although women's roles in the workplace have changed, they are still expected to pick up the slack at home.
We are a generation of working women trapped between two extremes.
There is the 1950s uber-mom, with the apron, the after-school cookies, the costumes sewn for the school play and the tucking in with a kiss every night. She couldn't be a career woman, that just wasn't done.
And then there's the 1980s power-mom, who was taught never to bring baked goods into the office, wore the woman-suit with the floppy bow tie, carried the briefcase and the tied the house key around the kid's neck with scratchy yarn. No need for a pot roast in the oven — they'd just invented the microwave!
So millennial mom is now expected to be both.
Women, Men and the New Economics of Marriage [Pew Research Center]
Report: More men get economic boost from marriage [AP]
Modern Marriages: The Rise Of The Sugar Mama [NPR]
More Men Marrying Wealthier Wives [NY Times]
More wives are the higher-income spouse, Pew report says [Washington Post]
More women in the workforce make bigger bucks than husbands [Washington Post]