Female Primary Household Breadwinners – The Shifting Society. (2016) A 2012 Pew Research Center study revealed a shift in the financial make-up of today’s households. The study found that 66 percent of young women have shifted their life priorities from getting married and having a family to focus more so on their careers. This societal shift has been most dramatic in the last half century, but has exploded in acceleration ever since the 2008 recession. With many men having lost jobs due to corporate downsizing and business failures, the percentage of mothers who said their ideal situation would be to work full-time rather than part-time or not at all had jumped from 20 percent to 32 percent. In Canada, since 1976, the number of women in the workforce has risen sharply from 47 percent to 69 percent.
In 1960, while rarely discussed and hardly recognized, of all married couples some 6 percent of those marriages consisted of homes where the female partner earned the highest level of income in the home – SHE and not HE was the primary breadwinner. The face of family breadwinners has been changing dramatically as today in 2016 the number of married couples where the female partner is the primary household breadwinner has risen sharply to 25 percent of all married couples. There is a new found sexism among those who insist that the man must be the primary breadwinner of the household.
The face of our workforce is changing. As historical labour intensive jobs such as mining, manufacturing, and trades are squeezed by improvements in technology, the blue collar work force has been challenged to remain as robust in numbers as it was 50 years ago. Women are discovering new opportunities in white collar jobs, and are making solid advances not only in numbers but also in level of wages earned. Thankfully, it’s a far cry from the days of the Victorian and Edwardian era’s where women were considered to be the property of their husbands, not permitted to work (with exception for the very small percentage whose husbands allowed their wives to work menial servant type jobs), but were required to stay home, look after the home and raise children.
So how does this shifting societal pattern impact relationships?
Female Primary Household Breadwinners
And The Impact This Has On Relationships
There’s no doubt about it, society is struggling in it’s ability to understand and accept the concept of females in a marriage being the primary household breadwinners, but is it really that difficult of a concept to embrace?
In many cases the income earning role reversal in a marriage is the work of market forces more so than personality; historically the husband’s career is expected to take precedence, and initially it does, but then something happens and his career is overtaken by his wife’s. Most often neither of them saw it coming—and it’s not easily welcomed as society and peer groups are often judgemental.
“Maybe the guy’s industry changed and he lost his job,” says Ken Neumann, a psychologist and divorce mediator who has seen his share of depressed dads lately. “Or the wife steps into the right place—something she couldn’t fully have anticipated. The question is, how secure does the guy feel? When the woman earns more, we can’t assume in our culture it’s a non-event. We’re a long way off from a world where it doesn’t affect the relationship.” (http://nymag.com/nymetro/news/features/n_9495/)
While we, as a society, appear to be a long way off from a world where it doesn’t affect the relationship, we must find a way to embrace this change as projections based on statistical changes tells us that by 2030 almost half of all married couples will have a home where the female is the primary breadwinner.
Consider the changing trends among men in the workforce. Males, once they reach the age of 50, if they lose their job through business closures or lay offs, based on age related workforce stigmas, are seen as unemployable as younger men are cheaper to hire and better educated. Today, some 33 percent of men between the ages of 50 and 64 years of age are unemployed and due to their age, seen by the business sector as unemployable. In this age bracket, women stand a much better chance of finding and keeping work than their male counterpart, and most males are forced into self-employment as a way of supporting themselves and their household.
Consider the rising epidemic of loneliness among single adults, as many place the priority in their search for a mate on earning potential. At some point we must ask ourselves, are we seeking a life partner, or a bank account?
In a recent survey, Vancouver, British Columbia residents listed social isolation as their most pressing concern. Today in 2016, more Canadians than ever live alone, and almost one-quarter describe themselves as “relationally lonely”. In the United States, two studies showed that 40 per cent of the adult population indicated that they’re lonely, a figure which has sadly doubled in the past 30 years. Britain, a country dedicated to fighting chronic loneliness, brought this issue to the forefront when health secretary Jeremy Hunt gave a speech about the isolated many, calling attention to “a forgotten million who live amongst us ignored, to our national shame.”
Perhaps it is the greatest of ironies that we live in an age of electronic connection through social media and texting, and yet when it comes to experiencing heartfelt relationships with a life partner, never have we felt more adrift.
Female Primary Household Breadwinners And The Income Difference
According to U.S. Census Bureau, of the 12 million single parent families in 2014, more than 80% were headed by single mothers. At any one time, about two thirds of single mothers are working outside the home, a number which is slightly greater than the number of married mothers who are also working outside the home.
For those living with a father only, about 21% live in poverty. In contrast to those children living with both parents, where only 13% fall into the category as being poor.
Demographically and socioeconomically, the financial outcomes for single mothers versus married mothers differ, according to the Census Bureau’s 2011 American Community Survey. The median family income for single mothers is $23,000. The median household income for married women who earn more than their husbands is $80,000. When the wife is the primary breadwinner, the total family income is generally higher.
Purely from a statistical analysis perspective, for the sake and well being of children and families, society should drop the stigmas and be more embracing of the reality that either the man or woman can be the primary breadwinner in a home. The reality is, in 80 percent of single family homes the woman is already the primary breadwinner. Is it so bad to see a couple with children doing their best to get ahead without keeping score sheets in the area of who makes more?
Female primary household breadwinners – we must embrace this reality. We must pave the way for society to embrace the fact that by 2030 half of all North American marriages will experience the scenario where SHE earns more than HE, and in doing so, we must be willing to build the mentality that allows these married couples to not only exist but thrive as a vibrant loving unit. We, as a society, must learn to shift the value of a person from a dollar sign back to the person as a whole, or else we will live to see the divorce rate climb; we will see a higher number of single parent families; and there will be an explosion among the number of those who go through their adult years chronically lonely.
U.S. Census Bureau – Table FG10. Family Groups: 2014
U.S. Census Bureau – Table C2
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Mothers Participation in the Labor Force
National Women’s Law Center, Poverty & Income Among Women & Families, 2000-2013
Legal Momentum, Worst Off – Single-Parent Families In The United States
Older Workers Statistical Information Booklet 2013, Department for Work and Pensions (https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/264899/older-workers-statistical-information-booklet-2013.pdf)