- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 19, 2010

NEW YORK | Historically, marriage was the surest route to financial security for women. Nowadays, it’s men who are increasingly getting the biggest economic boost from tying the knot, according to a new analysis of census data.

The changes, summarized in a Pew Research Center report being released Tuesday, reflect the proliferation of working wives over the past 40 years — a period in which American women outpaced men in both education and earnings growth.

A larger share of today’s men, compared with their 1970 counterparts, are married to women whose education and income exceed their own, and a larger share of women are married to men with less education and income.

“From an economic perspective, these trends have contributed to a gender role reversal in the gains from marriage,” wrote the report’s authors, Richard Fry and D’Vera Cohn.

“In the past, when relatively few wives worked, marriage enhanced the economic status of women more than that of men. In recent decades, however, the economic gains associated with marriage have been greater for men.”

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.

The report focused on U.S.-born men and women aged 30 to 44 — a stage when typical adults have finished their education, married and launched careers. The Pew report noted that today’s Americans in this age group are the first such cohort in U.S. history to include more women than men with college degrees.

In 1970, according to the report, 28 percent of wives in this age range had husbands who were better educated than they were, outnumbering the 20 percent whose husbands had less education. By 2007, these patterns had reversed — 19 percent of wives had husbands with more education, compared with 28 percent whose husbands had less education.

In the remaining couples — about half in 1970 and 2007 — spouses had similar education levels.

Only 4 percent of husbands had wives who earned more than they did in 1970, compared with 22 percent in 2007.

During that span, women’s earnings grew 44 percent, compared with 6 percent growth for men. According to 2009 Census Bureau figures, women with full-time jobs earned salaries equal to 77.9 percent of what men earned, compared with 52 percent in 1970.

The Pew researchers noted that the economic downturn is reinforcing the sex-reversal trends, with men losing jobs more often than women.

Deborah Siegel, a New York City writer, said she’s living through some of the Pew report’s trends as she returns to work three months after having twins while her husband — laid off from his corporate branding job a year ago — helps out with child care amid occasional freelance work.

“For men, being laid off is such a huge ego blow,” said Ms. Siegel, author of “Sisterhood Interrupted.” “The recession may be ending, but we’re still working out our dynamics.”

The Pew report found that unmarried women in 2007 had higher household incomes than their 1970 counterparts at each level of education, while unmarried men without post-secondary education lost ground because their real earnings decreased and they didn’t have a wife’s wages to offset that decline.

Unmarried men with college degrees made income gains of 15 percent, but were outpaced by the 28 percent gains of unmarried women with degrees.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide