Benefits of Working Women In Marriage

The post Benefits of working women in marriage discussed a recent New York Times article which championed the benefits of women working and having greater economic independence.  The blogger, Tim cites a New York Times article to support the theory that there is “greater marital stability and egalitarianism when a woman is more economically independent.”  Tim highlights the fact that although many had expected divorce rates to increase with women gaining more economic independence, evidence shows that women having more economic independence has led to lower divorce rates and happier marriages.

According to the New York Times article, divorce rates have decreased from 23 divorces per 1,000 couples in the late 1970’s to 17 divorces per 1,000 couples currently.  The article also cites research that in states where fewer wives have paid jobs, divorce rates are higher.  The New York Times article states that “financially independent women can be more selective in marrying, and they also have more negotiating power within the marriage.”

The article does discuss a few negative effects of women having more jobs outside the home.  For example, some men have problems with their wives earning more money than them and some women don’t like giving up their power to make decisions regarding their children and household tasks.  Also, poorer health is found in men in their 50’s who earn less money than their wives.  According to the New York Times, a man who earns less than his wife is 60% more likely to be in poor health than those who earn more than their wives.

I think that part of the reason that wives working outside the home has led to lower divorce rates is because the woman feels like she can make her own choices.  Being a working woman and a mother are not two mutually exclusive traits.  A woman can be a successful employee as well as a good mother.  To put a person in a box and tell them they can have only a certain role in society can limit their potential.  When a person in an organization is being kept from fulfilling their potential, they start to feel unhappy. They seek a way to leave that organization to fulfill their potential, whether it means leaving one company for a different job or getting a divorce in order to pursue other goals.  When people feel that they have power to make important decisions regarding their role in an organization, be it a company or a family, they are more likely to feel fulfilled and appreciated.

The woman’s movement has come a long way since the rigid gender rules of the early 20th century, but traditional gender roles still do exist.  In order for women to be happier and marriages to be more successful, women need to be able to make more choices regarding their roles in a marriage.

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4 Responses

  1. I agree with a lot of the statements in this article. Women definitely have more power when they are economically independent from their husbands. I do wonder about the effect that women earning more than their husband has on relationships. I can see this conflict leading to divorce just as easily as women without any economic power in a relationship. It seems like for this article’s claim to be accepted, women can have economic independence, as long as they don’t become more successful financially than their husbands.

  2. I wonder if those health associations are correlations or causal. Men who earn less than their spouses while in their 50s may have had poor health for a long time, leading to depressed earnings.

    Stepahnie Coontz’s The Way We Never Were is a great analysis of much of US Social history of marriage, gender roles, family structure, and employment.

    Your post is a useful reminder that for many women, a marriage decision is about a mix of factors including economic ones. We would do best to abandon the over-emphasis we get from pop culture that marriage is all about love.

    The other question for me is whether economic opportunities lowers the marriage rate. In other words, women who can be self-sufficient economically face less pressure to make poor marriages. The key question: is the marriage rate lower where women and men have economic parity?

  3. That’s an interesting point regarding men’s health in cases when their wives earn more than they do. I think it would be interesting to look into whether it is causal relationship, or merely correlated. I don’t think there is enough information regarding this issue to say that women earning more causes their husbands to have poor health. Some of the support for this argument might come from opponents of the idea of working women in marriages. A bit of a conspiracy theory, but it’s a possibility. It’s also interesting whether economic parity lowers the marriage rate. Personally, I don’t know if the marriage rate necessarily is lowered or if the age at which people are getting married is older. If people don’t need to get married for economic reasons, they may not get married as young, but I do see them still eventually getting married. While marriage may not be all about love, I don’t believe it is all for economic reasons. I think that even people who are financially independent may still choose to get married for the idea of family and companionship.

  4. People in general make more when they have higher degrees in education, which means that they may be more economically stable (excluding the whole thousands of dollars of debt from being educated). This may be another reason to support Emily’s idea that they get married at an older age. Also, another reason women who are financially stable have a lower divorce rate might be because that means the family’s income is greater. People like to believe that money doesn’t buy happiness, and while I agree that money alone can’t buy happiness I also believe that financial burdens can cause burdens in relationships as well. It is very stressful to live paycheck to paycheck and people tend to take their stress out on those they love the most. This can lead to dysfunctional and at times abusive relationships.

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