"The Rise of Wives"

In a new study just released by the Pew Research Center and co-authored by Richard Fry and D'Vera Cohn, researchers have found that in 1 out of 5 marriages women are more educated and earn more money than their husbands, leading to the creation of a trend identified by researchers as, "the rise of wives."

The Pew Research Center report took data from the U.S. Census Bureau and examined how income and education levels affect married life for U.S.-born spouses between the ages of 30-44. This group was focused on because it is the first group in U.S. history to include more women with college degrees than men with college degrees, and the main finding was that the benefits to getting married are now very economically beneficial for men.

Finding Your Better Half Is Proving Better For Men

It used to be that marriage was the vehicle that changed the economic status of a woman. Women often married young and to men who had more education. Also, women used to get married with the intention of staying home and caring for the home, instead of working outside of the home. According to Richard Fry, "What's radically changed is that marriage is now a better deal for men." Namely because men increasingly enjoy an economic boost when they get hitched, which is a far cry from the 1970's when unmarried men boasted a higher income status than married men. Today, married men often chose spouses with as much or more education than in past decades, and more and more women work outside of the home today in an effort to pool incomes in a two-income household. The tides have changed significantly, and clearly men are reaping the benefits in more ways than one, contributing to trend identified by the Pew Research Center report as a, "gender role reversal in the gains from marriage."

Reasons For Role Reversal

Between the data collected from the U.S. Census Bureau and the various doctors and specialists interviewed for the this report, a few clear emerging trends can be seen as the real reasons for these changes, or "gender role reversals."

1. Roles within marriages have changed. Thirty years ago there was an unspoken code about the roles a husband and wife would assume upon being married, but now those roles have changed, and so have the circumstances affecting the modern institution of marriages. According to Andrew Cherlin, a sociologist at Johns Hopkins University, "the old bargain was that the husband earned the money and the wife took care of the home. The new bargain is that both work, and they pool their incomes." For various reasons (education, economic necessity, age, choice etc.), more and more married couples are sharing all aspects of the marriage, family, and home, and because of these more equal roles there is some overlap and sharing of decision-making power and responsibility between the married partners; it is as if most households now have two heads of the house, instead of one.

2. Economic Factors. Due to the recession and the fact that women have not lost their jobs as quickly as men, due in large part to the decline of male-dominated jobs such as ones in the manufacturing industry, women are carrying more and more responsibility to earn money outside of the home. Kathleen Gerson, sociologist and author of "The Unfinished Revolution: How a New Generation Is Reshaping Family, Work and Gender in America," "the economic crisis has made something visible that's been building for a long time." Men still out-earn women, but the gender gap around equal pay for equal jobs is narrowing, and quickly. As cited in the report, the median earnings of women in 2007, when compared to men's earnings, was 71 percent, which is a vast improvement since 1970 when women's median earnings were a mere 52 percent of what men were receiving.

See salary comparisons for men and women in the following professions: executive secretary, K-12 teacher, fire fighter, regional sales manager, accountant, lawyer, graphic designer, and restaurant manager.

3. Strides in Education. Another factor that has lead to the change in gender roles over the years is the amount of education women are receiving today, compared to 1970. More and more women are going to college and graduating, and many women are going on to graduate school as well. The amount of college-educated wives has more than doubled since 1970, proving that not only are more women going to college, but those women are also getting married and choosing to be with educated spouses as well, further increasing their own chances of joining the workforce and continuing to create families where education is a focus.


The main results of this study are that gender roles within marriages are changing for both men and women. Women are enjoying a place alongside of their husbands now, instead of behind, and men are seeing the many benefits to having a partner that is an equal counterpart, even if she does wear dresses and heels. Women get to enjoy more decision- making power as a result of their equality and men clearly see the economic benefits to having an educated wife. According to Cherlin, the author of "The Marriage-Go-Round: The State of Marriage and Family In America Today, "it's not that women are calling the shots. It's that husbands and wives are sharing the decision-making power."

Cherlin hit the nail on the head. Yes, there is a noticeable change that has occurred in marriages and gender roles within the last 30 years, and yes both men and women are benefiting from these changes, because it has become more of a shared partnership between the couple. After all, isn't that the exact definition of a partnership and the purpose of a marriage? Obviously couples in the U.S are getting better at working together toward common goals so that both partners can reap the benefits. Now if we could just get the divorce rate down then we would be the picture of marriage perfection.

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