Few women will be surprised to learn that even when women earn about the same as their husbands or more, a new Pew Research Center study finds that they still spend more time on housework and child care, while men their husbands spend more time on paid work and leisure.
“Although financial contributions have become more equal in marriages, the way couples divide their time between paid work and family life remains unbalanced,” Pew noted.
So who wins what?
Pew found that in 29 percent of today’s heterosexual marriages, women and men earn about the same (roughly $60,000 each). “Husbands in egalitarian marriages spend about 3.5 hours more per week in leisure activities than wives. Wives in these marriages spend approximately 2 hours more per week on caregiving than husbands and about 2.5 hours more on housework,” the study notes.
In 55% of opposite-sex marriages, men are the main or sole breadwinners, earning an average of $96,000 to their wives’ $30,000.
Meanwhile, in 16% of marriages, women overtake their husbands as the main (10%) or sole breadwinner (6%). In these marriages the wives earn an average of $88,000 compared to their husbands’ $35,000.
Of all these categories, the only one in which men are said to spend more time caring than their wives is when the woman is the sole breadwinner. And the weekly time spent on housework in these marriages is divided equally between husbands and wives.
In any case, it’s a big change from 50 years ago, when, for example, husbands were the main breadwinner in 85% of marriages.
Today, which women are more likely to be the primary or sole breadwinner can vary by age, family status, education, and race.
For example, Pew found that black women are “significantly more likely” than other women to earn more than their husbands. For example, 26% of black women take home more than their husbands, compared to only 17% of white women and 13% of Hispanic women.
But black women with a college degree or higher and few children at home are also among the most likely to earn about the same as their husbands.
These figures are reported in a context of societal attitudes about who should earn more and how caregiving should be divided between spouses.
Nearly half of Americans (48 percent) in the Pew poll said husbands would prefer to earn more than their wives, while 13 percent said men would prefer their wives earned about the same they.
What do women want? Twenty-two percent of Americans said most women want a husband who earns more, while 26% said most would want a man who earns about the same.
Meanwhile, when it comes to having a family, 77% said children are better off when both parents focus equally on their work and caring for their children. Only 19% said that children are better off when their mother focuses more on family life and their father focuses more on his work.
The Pew study draws on three data sources: earnings data from the US Census Current Population Survey; data from the American Time Use Survey and a nationally representative survey of public attitudes among 5,152 US adults conducted in January.