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Women’s income, household chores, divorce and the need for a cascade of norms

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Between making organic cupcakes for my daughters school, filling out a grant application, tending my organic vegetables, and finishing an R&R for a newspaper, I came across this gem of a working document (thanks to Blog Freakonomics).[1] This new research shows the following:

“Couples where the wife earns more than the husband are less satisfied with their marriage and are more likely to divorce. Finally, based on time-use surveys, the gender gap in non-market work is larger if the wife earns more than the husband” (abstract).

So, in a nutshell, wives who earn more than their husbands have a whole lot of bad stuff as a result: divorce and unhappiness, plus more time spent cleaning toilets. As an academic who earns X times more than my public school teaching spouse, I don’t know what to make of this.[2] Social science methods are commendable. The conclusions seem to follow the existing literature. It also aligns with the advice that leading scholars in the discipline have given me at various Women in methodology and Women in Conflict Studies events. [3] Luckily, I can’t really reconcile that with my own experiences, whether in my marriage or the division of labor in my home.[4] I hope to remain an outlier.

I thought about this for about a day and came to the only conclusion that someone (a) with two little girls and (b) studying advocacy and human rights can: I’m going to be a contractor standard on this one. the New[5] standard that I will promote: real men can tolerate their wives earning more than them. And, they can help clean the toilets.

Who is with me?



[1] Ok, so only 2 out of 4 of them are true. But I buy the best Little Debbie snacks for my daughters’ events.

[2] Both salaries are pretty low, all things considered.

[4] My N of 1. If I’m ever at a conference where this paper is presented, I’ll be a good audience member and won’t ask why their paper doesn’t consider me and my data point.

[5] It’s really not a new normal, which is why this study is so sad to me.