questionsare you the 40%?


During my comparatively short marriage, I out-earned my husband, and we lived in the house I bought before we married. That was one of the reasons for the breakup. He couldn't handle the fact that I had a real career and was a recognized professional while he was working jobs with little future. He was perfectly happy to spend my money, but he didn't like it one bit when we would bump into work associates in social settings and I would be the important one in the discussion. And, oh, the drama when we would get junk mail addressed to Mr. My-Last-Name. I reminded him that women have been expected to give up their identity in marriage for centuries, and pointed out that it was actually an insult to me that these junk mailers were addressing mail sent to my house to him just because he's the man. But no, it was just another reminder that he wasn't really "the man" of the house. The irony was that he thought of himself as a thoroughly modern and evolved guy. Good riddance!


Did the study you looked at include only two-income households? Because it's been my perception that women's earning power remains much lower than men's but because of the economic crunch, there are a lot more low paid jobs traditionally held by women available than higher paid ones traditionally held by men. So there are a lot of households right now where if both adults were employed the man would probably earn more than the woman, but the man is unemployed and the woman has held onto her job. It's true there are more women competing successfully for those higher paying jobs these days, but I don;t think we've accomplished anything like even ground as far as women's average pay compared to men's across all professions.


@moondrake: When we planned to marry (me aged 52, him 44), I gently told my man that I wasn't going to change my name. His totally sincere response: "No problem. Would you like me to change mine?"

So he kept his name, and I still have my birth-name, reclaimed in court after a divorce a century or two ago. For years we worked in different departments at the same place. His co-workers tended to call me Mrs. His-last-name; my co-workers called him Mr. My-last-name. We never corrected anyone, since it might have made someone feel awkward. (Remember, we're in the South, and [cough] younger folks often use last names there. It's kinda cute.)

We laugh about being able to tell junk mail easily: if it's addressed with a first name and the other's last name, we can be pretty sure it's not important.

It's sad to hear that your husband's insecurities and ego issues were so insurmountable. For what it's worth, it's been my observation that such problems rarely improve over time.


@moondrake: Regarding your perception of why the 40% figure may have more nuance than a simple headline might imply, I agree with you completely. There have been numerous news stories over the last two years pointing out that women's jobs have been relatively more secure, leaving more men unemployed or under-employed as they take whatever they can find when they lose a job.

As to pay equity, you and I agree there as well.


2 years ago, I was outearning my wife easily. Due to the excellent raises/bonuses at her work (which was just bought out, so we'll see how that goes), and the way underpaid wages at my company (vs same position at another company) she earns slightly more. If you factor in the savings I get on Internet/TV/Cellphone every month, it is probably about the same. If you factor in the freelance/web projects I do on my own, I earn more. I stay at my current job because I enjoy it, and it is pretty laid back.


Until very recently, my wife out earned me. I was perfectly fine with that. We both work hard, and we pool all our resources, so doesn't make a difference who earns more. I recently got a new job that gave me a considerable raise in pay. The extra pay is cool, because we have to worry about bills less, but still doesn't matter who earns it. We're trying to get a better job for my wife now, but the bigger concern is simply finding a better place. Both of us had horrible jobs that treated us poorly, so we've focused on finding jobs we can be happy working at.

I think it would really only be a concern, if one of us didn't pull our fair share. In moondrake's case, it kind of sounds like that the ex may have not based on the comment about him having no problem spending the money she earned. For me and my wife, we both work hard and we both realize that, so doesn't matter at the end of the day who makes more.


@magic cave: When I married I never made a legal change, but I hyphenated on my business cards and other correspondence. That was a bit of a chore, as my own first plus last name is 16 letters, and his name was another 8, making my name 24 letters. Some years ago I had a member of my team at work who'd given up his last name and taken his wife's when they married. They were both highly regarded professionals, college professors who were sometimes hired by other countries to perform studies. He was an expert at the relationships between culture and the changing work environment, and she was a linguistics expert that specialized in developing language curricula and identifying weaknesses in language training programs. They were both in their late 50's when they married, and both had some prestige attached to their names. Having had this experience with my ex who was in his 20's at the time gave me a good foundation of respect for my co-worker.


@moondrake: 25, you forgot the hyphen :-P

I'm not married, but I do have a good enough job that if/when (I assume at some time I'll get married), my wife wouldn't have to work if she didn't want to. But if she made more money than me, heck, that would be great. If she made enough that we could live comfortably off her income, I'd have no issue being a house husband.

Thinking about your first post, @moondrake, I wonder if it was maybe a bit of a sticking point that he moved in to a house you already owned. Recently, I was talking to a friend about that, and I think that if/when I get married, I'd sell my current house and find a new house. Something tells me that the house I owned before would never really feel like my spouse's home...


@rockytrh: I think you're onto something with that statement, it's one of those start a life together sorts of things that most marriage counselors would recommend. Some people can make it work, and others can't though. It's really just part of figuring out who the other person is and who you are.

Single soooo I think I'm not for the purposes of this question. But who knows, the lady I'm dating is pretty awesome...


@rockytrh: Regarding where to live after a marriage: I think that's also a point of maturity. I've lived in my tiny little house since 1976; when we married in 1999 it made sense for us to stay here than to move elsewhere. Small it may be, but it also has a tiny little mortgage, which will be paid off next year.

Keep your options open, and let your partner tell you where she'd prefer to live. Who knows? It could be in Canada!


@rockytrh: Although I made decent money for the area I was far from rich and he wasn't contributing (spending more than he earned). Being able to buy the house had required a Herculean effort and a lot of luck. We talked about getting another house when he got a good job with a career path, but we couldn't have gotten another one on our combined income at the time. But he wasn't exactly motivated, and dilly-dallied around with lower paying jobs till he got frustrated, we split up, he moved home for a while and finally got his life on track afterwards. I guess I was enabling him by making life too easy for him to feel the need to actually make more of himself. That's the real burn, he seemed to blame me that his life wasn't turning out the way he'd envisioned, being the charismatic genius he thought himself to be. He is intelligent, but he has never been very smart. I think we are both better off apart.


Yep and I don't care nor worry about it. I'm not going to thumb my nose up at money that's going to the both of us or forsake her for working hard to get where she is. I'm proud of her for it ... and besides we gotta pay off them college loans somehow!


I had that kind of marriage, and was very fortunate to be married to someone who was not threatened by it. He was proud of me. We both had respect for the work that the other did. It may have been an advantage that we were married later in life (I was 43, and he was 42), and that we had common interests and similar political views.

I almost forgot to mention. I changed my name, because I liked his last name, and because I could. It made little or no difference to me professionally (I was already established).

It's Spring. I miss him, this time of year.


@magic cave: It's funny you say that thing about Canada. I had a friend who was in my WoW guild (back when I played not too long ago). Used to live in California. He met his wife in game actually, and she was Canadian. He move up there to marry her not too long ago and became a naturalized Canadian citizen. It's a sweet story.


I worked in government for 33 years so my take home pay was ALWAYS lower than my husband's, even though I had worked my way into management and he remained in outside sales. However, with the volatility of his field, there were many times over the years that I was the sole breadwinner of the family. (He did NOT make a very good househusband, I'm afraid.)

One of the attractions of working in the public sector has always been the retirement benefits. Now that I am retired I am actually clearing almost exactly the amount that I brought home while working. Still less than he makes, but valuable, nevertheless. Public sector salaries are traditionally lower than private sector (except for the unclassified appointees of the more crooked administrations), and retirement plans are viewed as deferred income.

BTW, as an ardent feminist, I surprised my friends by taking DH's surname when we married. It just seemed easier and I rather liked the name. My choice!


Looks like they re-tittled the article and and re-linked it. Link above is broken. Here's the new/corrected link:

The study is that "Mothers Are Breadwinners in 40% of Households, Says Study" not, that they outearn the man.


@belyndag: Choice is what feminism is all about. There's nothing remotely wrong with either partner choosing to adopt the other's name. I have seen couples reverse hyphenate (John Smith becomes John Smith-Jones, and Sally Jones becomes Sally Jones-Smith), but I am still waiting for a couple to switch.


My wife out earns me now and it's awesome. I don't see why anyone would be upset by that. It takes the stress off. In this current economy, given my profession, I'm always worried about potentially getting laid-off. Since my wife is the primary income I know that we can get by if I lose my job. I can't express how great that is. Her job is extremely secure.


@first2summit: That link's not working for me. Thanks for the clarification, though. All this appears to be based on a PEW study of US Census information. I think this is the origin point:

And speaking to my earlier point about women's generally lower earning potential, "The income gap between the two groups is quite large. The median total family income of married mothers who earn more than their husbands was nearly $80,000 in 2011, well above the national median of $57,100 for all families with children, and nearly four times the $23,000 median for families led by a single mother." That 13% or so of households with women earning more than their husbands is in very rarefied air.


@rockytrh: My husband & I met playing WoW! He moved from SD to IL for us & we eventually got married. Coming up on our 3rd anniversary shortly!

I've made more than my husband has the entire time we've been together, but that will likely change in the next year. I work for a small company that isn't likely to give me a raise for a while (at least until the economy bounces back, whenever that is), while his job has a great set of automatic raises & such for those that make it (it's a UAW job).

We keep our finances separate. I pay more bills because I can afford to. He pays a smaller number of bills, probably making up roughly the same percentage of my income-to-bill ratio. Everything left over is for us to use separately/together. We both love to buy stuff, so there's no guilt about spending the other's money. We both have access to each other's accounts and use them when necessary (after asking). And there are joint credit cards in the case of emergencies. It works great for us :)


My wife kept her last name when we married. I've never had a problem with that and we both chuckle over being called Mr./Mrs. The-other's-last-name. Oddly, some of her own family addresses mail to "Her-first-name My-last-name".

But the strangest one is when we get mail addressed to "Her-last-name Her-first-initial My-last-name" ! I think it is a mangled version of the way our number is listed in the phone book.

Oh, and when my wife worked, she made almost as much as me (and I was fine with that). But she quit soon after we had kids and has not gone back -- also fine.


As for the name change question, I opted to take my husband's name for practical reasons.

Like it or not, I expect it will be easier in emergency situations to prove that we're married since we have the same name.

My previous name was very common (and my first name is quite common), so there were always mixups at the doctor, etc. Using my husband's last name has gotten rid of virtually all of those issues - according to my last search there's only about 8 of us in the US with my first & last name combo now.

Last practical reason was that no one could ever spell my short German last name correctly, but it's common enough that everyone thought they could anyways. I now have a longer Norwegian name that no one's sure of, so they actually ask instead of assuming. The only unfortunate side effect is that I have the tiniest bit of a lisp and the new last name has an F & an S right next to each other. Over the phone, it often gets confused even when pulling the "F as in Frank/S as in Sam".


My wife is a major case attorney for an insurance company (more than $0). I'm a stay-at-home dad ($0). :D For reference, we're almost 28.


I had a short marriage in which I changed my name to his. A few years later, I began a long marriage in which I again changed my name. For professional reasons (mostly his) midway into that marriage I began using a hyphenated name. I was in the media a lot, and it was politically safer for him to have as much separation in public perception as possible. When we both knew that our marriage would end, I changed my name legally by dropping his from my hyphenate. By the time we divorced, I'd already been using my birth name for quite some time, so there was no professional change for me to make.

Three name changes is two more than was fun; after 10 years of using only my birth name I was seriously disinclined to change it again.

I've been, as they say, a card-carrying activist/feminist since 1974. Choices and opportunities many take for granted today were unheard of in my early-adult years. Change is rewarding, and although it's often slow it's always exciting.


I make slightly more than my fiance. But if she were to get a raise and end up earning more than me I don't think it would bother me. She has earned the position and pay that she has just as much as I have.


@smtatertot13: "according to my last search there's only about 8 of us in the US with my first & last name combo now."

According to Google (yes, I have vanity-Googled my own name), I am the ONLY person in the US with my name! I found a woman in France with a very similar name, although it is spelled differently. Interestingly enough, she was listed on a porn site. Hmmm. Glad we spell our names differently!


@moondrake: Looks like they did something with the article again.

A couple notes on all this.

It's rare but the trends are changing as we're seeing more stay-at-home dads, more women in college than men, etc. I did hear a theory in the shift is due to the men being raised in single mother homes and the boys lacking a strong male role model.

And the part about the gap in income and earning potential between men and women is complicated and can be broken down into AT LEAST the following things: sexism; some women do not return to work after giving birth; when hired, women don't negotiate their salaries (less than half while ~70% of men do); and generally, women don't ask for raises as much as men do.


@first2summit: I'll add that one of last month's business magazines, they had Melissa Mayer, Sheryl Sandberg, Barbara Corcoran, and one other about their views on women in the work world. One of the questions was how should a woman get a raise to which 3, maybe all of them, replied "Ask for one."


I'm a teacher, so it isn't much of challenge for my wife to out-earn me. :)


Must admit I skimmed (read quickly) most answers. Do find this a most interesting question. Great responses, too!

Yes, I was a part of the 40%. Didn't bother either of us. Also, did not change my name when I married for the 3rd time. Amusing aside: My 1st & 3rd husbands had the same last name w/a one letter difference. I kept my 2nd husband's name. Even more amusing: That was not his legal last name. ;-)


our family is. I'm a stay at home dad right now.


Not currently but once my wife starts her nursing career, it is a possibility. As long as we keep it the same way it is now, as household income, then I will have no problem with it.


@magic cave: Having moms as the primary breadwinner in the household is certainly not a problem. Having approximately 25% of the children in this country being raised by working single mothers in households earning less than $25,000 per year is a problem. Juan Williams was right when he said it was "something going terribly wrong in American society, and it's hurting our children, and it's going to have impact for generations to come." Growing up in poverty seriously curtails nutrition, health care and educational opportunities for these kids which is going to make it ever more difficult for them to contribute and achieve success generation after generation. What these talking heads and those like them seem blind to is that most of these households would welcome a successful male breadwinner, but for a wide variety of reasons that's not happening in our country. Instead of blaming women, these men should think about why so many children are made by two people but raised by one.


@magic cave: Thank you. Quite a panel, huh? "Frothing" is a mild word to describe my reaction. Is it just a simple thing that men are threatened by this? I don't know. Do know I found this appalling.

Thank goodness there are men who aren't threatened and are appreciative of their spouse's hard work. Side notes: Fox. Guess I shouldn't be surprised. Also, they managed to bring up abortion and the race card. Again, Fox.