June 17, 2024

Couples where the wife is the sole breadwinner report lower life satisfaction

Many women, at least temporarily, will be the breadwinners at some point in their relationship. Changing employment trends and gender roles will affect many families. But our new peer-reviewed study This shows that well-being in heterosexual couples is lower when the woman is the sole breadwinner, compared to the man or if both partners are employed.

Over 14 years of European social survey data, men and women reported lower life satisfaction when the wife or female partner was the winner, with men suffering the most. This is true even after controlling for income, attitudes towards gender and other characteristics.

We analyzed the survey responses of over 42,000 people of working age across nine countries. The data measures well-being by asking people to score how satisfied they are with their lives as a whole today, from zero (extremely unhappy) to ten (extremely satisfied). Most people give a score between five and eight.

These “life satisfaction points” give us an understanding of how the well-being of different groups compares. Before any controls, men’s life satisfaction is 5.86 when the woman is the sole earner, compared to 7.16 when the man is the sole earner. For women, the corresponding figures are 6.33 and 7.10 respectively.

Couples in Germany seem to struggle the most with female breadwinner situations, followed by the UK, Ireland and Spain. However, the issue is fairly universal across Europe, even in more gender equal countries like Finland.

Men struggle more

In female-winner families, men seem to struggle more mentally than women. We found that women’s breadwinner has such a heavy psychological burden on men that they prefer not to be employed at all. After accounting for baseline characteristics, income and gender attitudes, out-of-work men report significantly higher life satisfaction when both partners are unemployed.

Watching their partners go to the office (or work from home) every day can make out-of-work men feel worse about themselves. But when their partner is in the same boat as themselves, unemployed men may feel that their lack of employment is less “biased”.

Men in female-winner couples report the lowest well-being when they are unemployed rather than “inactive” (not actively looking for work and/or doing housework or other caregiving responsibilities). The biggest one is unemployment psychological costs, such as self-doubt, uncertainty, loneliness and stigma. In this study, we do not include people who are inactive for reasons of health or disability.

In fact, unemployed men preferred to swap places with their working wives. Men’s well-being is significantly higher when the woman is unemployed than the man, but women report equally low well-being when either partner is unemployed.

Characteristics of female breadwinner families

Certain factors may contribute to the low well-being of breadwinner couples. For example, these couples they have a lower average household income than two-earner families and breadwinner families, and are more likely to find it “difficult” or “very difficult” to cope with their current income. In addition, more men in female-winner couples report “fair”, “bad” or “very bad” health and are less educated.

When we controlled for these and other basic characteristics (such as age and children) as well as gender role attitudes and each partner’s share of family income, women’s well-being is only slightly lower (-0.048 life satisfaction points) when the woman is the sole breadwinner instead of the man.

But, even after accounting for these factors, men’s well-being is still over half a point of life satisfaction lower (-0.585) when the woman is the sole breadwinner. In Germany, this difference is over one full life satisfaction point (-1.112).

Thus, while our study suggests that characteristics of breadwinner couples largely explain women’s lower well-being, they do not account for the discrepancy with men’s well-being.

Masculinity, (dis)employment and well-being

In many countries, being the winner in the market has always been central to men’s feelings. There is a provision of money for the family key to masculinity and equal to being a A “good” dad.. When these roles are reversed, couples can experience social “sanctions”. such as gossiping, ridicule and judgment from family, friends, and other acquaintances, as well as mental health difficulties.

Unemployed men may be particularly at risk of isolation and loneliness, as they are less likely than women to have community or care-based social networks. to draw onlike friendships developed at the school gates.

Meanwhile, gender expectations of selflessness it may cause women to go to greater lengths than men to protect a partner from the true extent of their distress. This could also work the other way around: when the man is unemployed, the woman could be more perceptive and negative about his struggle than it would be if these roles were reversed.

However, unemployment is a normal part of working life, including traditionally more middle-class professionals protected from this risk. Our findings suggest that gender norms influence how couples deal with unemployment, and that men value their own employment status more than that of their female partner.

In addition, men’s distress over the breadwinner arrangement can encourage women to hold back from taking up jobs or roles that demand higher pay, reinforcing gender inequality in employment rates, career progression and income.

Clearly, there is still a long way to go to disentangle the link between bread-winning and masculinity. It is vital to challenge this idealization of male achievement so that men no longer feel like failures when they least expect it.

This article is republished from The conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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