Women who earn significantly more than their husbands wind up with more than the lion’s share of duties after delivering a baby.
Is the reward for hard work greater work?
According to a new study from the University of Bath, wives who earn significantly more than their husbands end up doing more domestic tasks after they become parents than their husbands, regardless of who did more of the chores before the baby arrived.
Let’s take a look at what the study discovered and how it relates to how you handle your personal finances.
High-Earning Mothers Study
What the report reveals about mothers and work
Joanna Syrda, an assistant professor of business economics at the University of Bath in the United Kingdom, reviewed data from over 6,000 heterosexual double-income couples in the United States from 1999 to 2017.
She discovered that among married couples when the wife earned significantly more money than the husband, the wife began doing more housework after the couple had a kid than the husband did relative to the division of housework prior to the baby’s arrival.
Because having a baby increases the total amount of housework, the woman ended up performing both more overall and a higher proportion of housework than she had before the baby arrived.
Surprisingly, among married couples, the wife tends to take on more home duties the more she earns in comparison to her husband. In addition, the division of labour in home responsibilities is more balanced in couples who cohabitate but are not officially married.
Why does this happen?
Why do women do more housework because they make more money than their husbands? And why do wives accept a higher amount of domestic chores than cohabiting women?
Syrda speculates that it is related to gender norms and how they are skewed when women earn more than males, at least for married couples.
Traditionally, being the earner has been connected with masculinity. However, as wives make more money than their husbands, this stereotype is being challenged.
According to Sydra, couples may strive to reestablish gender balance by having the woman do more of the housework.
Why does it matter?
This retroactive shift in the division of household labour is important because it helps everyone when women participate more in the paid labour force and men participate more in household labour and child care.
Amanda Weinstein, an assistant professor in the Department of Economics within the College of Business Administration at the University of Akron in Ohio, determined in 2018 that “for every 10% increase in women working, we see a 5% rise in salaries” for all workers, male and female.
Economic stability for individual family units and the entire economic system improves when more women work, whether they are partnered or not, and whether they are the primary breadwinners or not.
Syrda’s research finds that the trend of some married women taking on more household responsibilities despite being breadwinners can have long-term negative consequences.
She emphasises in a press statement from the University of Bath that how couples divide household responsibilities after becoming parents can contribute to wage differences over the course of their lives, creating issues for individuals concerned about gender and money inequities.
She goes on to say that “these conventions may be passed on to their offspring.”
More women are not working.
While these findings are concerning, they are not surprising. Syrda’s data collection predated the introduction of COVID-19, but the pandemic intensified the trend of women focusing more on the home, even at the detriment of their jobs.
During the epidemic, many American women left the job force. According to one estimate, 1.1 million women exited the work force between February 2020 and January 2022.
Many women left their jobs to care for their children or other family members.
The bottom line
While moms have made incredible strides in the job market in recent decades, with women becoming breadwinners at a rate unprecedented in history, the actual gains may be more cultural than economic.
Women are still paid far less than men. When schools ended in 2020, it was moms, not fathers, who left the labour in significant numbers to care for children.
When the most successful women volunteer to perform more than their fair share of housework when they become moms, it doesn’t bode well for equality or the reduction of gender stereotypes.