New Economics of Marriage --The rise of the wives

A larger share of men in 2007, as compared to 1970, are married to women whose education and income exceed their own, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of demographic and economic trend data. A larger share of women are married to men with less education and income.

From an economic perspective this is a role reversal from the past. A generation ago, when relatively few wives worked, marriage enhanced the economic status of women more than that of men. Most men got married assuming little or no help financially in supporting their families.

In recent decades, however, the economic gains associated with marriage have been greater for men than for women. It looks like women have become "the sugar mommies."

The recession has further exacerbated this trend as the majority of those losing their jobs are male. Males accounted for about 75% of the 2008 decline in employment among prime-working-age individuals.

Women are moving toward a new milestone in which they constitute half of all the employed. Their share increased from 46.5% in December 2007 to 47.4% in December 2009. Many men who have lost their jobs have had their fall cushioned by a working spouse.

While statistically married couples fare better financially than their unmarried counterparts, married women without their high school diploma did not make the same gains. They saw their household incomes slip 2% from 1970 to 2007, while those of their unmarried counterparts grew 9%.

The stagnant incomes of married women without high school diplomas reflect the poor job prospects of less educated men in their pool of marriage partners. These less educated married women now are far less likely than in the past to have a spouse who works -- 77% did in 2007, compared with 92% in 1970.

Many women are realizing the changing landscape of education and marriage and are wary of a too eager suitor. Worried that they may be just looking for a meal ticket, many young women are only interested in dating men of a similar educational status.

My daughter, who is in the third year of veterinary medicine at the U. of Wisconsin, sums it up nicely when she says, "that is why we have prenups."

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