Wives Earning More than Husbands Increases Divorce Rates


money relationshipBy Nomalanga Mhlauli-Moses

A research paper by Marianne Bertrand, Emir Kamenica (both University of Chicago) and Jessica Pan (National University of Singapore), had, among its findings, information that revealed that if  wives earned more than thier husbands, it strained their marriages and also led to higher divorce rates.

As long as the woman earns less, her income does not cause trouble in the marriage. Once she earns more, however, marriage difficulties jump and divorce rates increase. Interestingly, it does not seem to matter whether she earns only slightly more, or substantially more—an indication that it is not female income per se, but the mere fact of earning more, that causes trouble.

While it is obvious that we can not uniformly apply these findings, I have to admit that I find them a little unsettling. As I read the findings, the first thing that I thought of was some woman reading the same findings and then immediately blaming the men for not being able to handle “a strong woman”. While I can agree that there are some men who are threatened by women who they perceive to have the potential to achieve more success and financial compensation than them, I would also add that there are women who are unable to conduct themselves in a dignified manner when they do.

I grew up in a traditional home in which my father was the obvious breadwinner. My mother worked and she had a successful career, but it was still obvious to us, even when we were small children, that my father was the one who was expected to provide for us as a family. I share that in the interests of full disclosure and admit that that may color my perspective a little bit. I have no problem with women deciding to take a step back, much like Mrs. Obama did (when President Obama decided to run for President), so that their husbands can step up and be the primary bread winners. That being said, I have also seen homes where women were the ones that earned more money than their husbands but what stood out to me as significant was not the size of the woman’s paycheck, but her personal conduct.

Just in the same way that there are men who are threatened by a woman with a bigger paycheck, there are also women who’s paycheck seems to give them permission to be disrespectful and conduct themselves in very unbecoming ways. I would argue that a lot of times, the strain that seems to come from the wives’ bigger paycheck may actually come from her attitude about her paycheck. Of course, this is not always the case; it is also possible that her husband is the one with insecurity issues. I have also seen women who had bigger paychecks than their husbands and still maintained their roles as loving and respectful wives. Let’s also not forget that there are also people who will judge a man if they deem his paycheck too small and there are men who also have bad attitudes when they have a bigger pay check, so there are many ways that the paycheck issue can cause issues in a marriage or relationship.

At the end of the day, I think that the size of a paycheck does matter, but so does the attitudes and personal conduct of the two people in the relationship. I think that it is important for each person in the relationship to be honest with themselves and their partner about how they feel about having a non-traditional relationship (or a traditional one). If this causes some discomfort, that issue should be put on the table and dealt with. I’d like to believe that when people walk into marriages, they value many things about each other beyond paychecks and careers and I would also like to believe that if the paycheck became an issue, the issues could be resolved, rather than throw away the relationship or the marriage.

Nomalanga helps Black Women thrive in their lives and careers. She is a Social Commentator, an Editor at Your Black World , Assistant Professor of Professional Studies and the reigning Mrs Botswana. Visit Nomalanga’s blog at successfulblackwoman.com




  1. Devonne C.Adams on

    Men be confident in who you are, she is an extension of you, you reap the benefits along with your spouse, I have been married to a lady who wanted me to do everything and she does nothing but look at television all day long, thank God you have a spouse that wants to contribute without arrogance but confidence, the grass is not greener on the other side, thank God that might wemon of valor!!! If you have questions call *** 651 **** God bless!!!

  2. Women earning more money has recently escalated, especially in the black community. Along with this occurance, there has been a rewriting of the rules. Many women find if difficult to give orders to men all day and come home and do the wifey thing. Money and power can be intoxicating to those that are not used to having it. Girls night out, working late and traveling more can put one to the test. Men have lived with this advantage for years and now the balance of power has reversed. Traditionally, women held the family together. Now there is a race for the door, as a result, latch key kids. Mother’s of past generations gave their live up for their children. Good, bad or indiferent, career and social life for both men and women has left an unintended victim, children. As a result,the street has taken a prominent place at the dinner table.

  3. hell if you can make more money than me “more power to you” I aint hating! Just look out for mr when I retire. I dont want much just a few bucks, plus food water and shelter!

  4. Fannie Lou Biko on

    I’m not sure about this finding. There are too many males out there who understand the way this “white” governed world works, and he’s not about to let a female’s money run him off. Most men I hope, would only be offended by her income if she didn’t know what to do with it. As long as she runs all major financial decisions by him, and pays her appropriate percentage of bills (due to their income), I pray most men will accept, adapt, and recognize that females still get paid less for their work than us, and they get enslaved (“pimped”) harder on the job than men do. Women get run like mammies and nannies to keep their superior-paid jobs.

  5. I like your perspective, it’s not just a matter of the actual money that determines the outcome of a marriage. There are many factors including the personal attitudes and beliefs of the people in the marriage that affect whether or not it works out. People have been conditioned to think that particular models of the family structure need to be maintained in order for society to function properly. The breakdown of the traditional family does not have to mean the breakdown of society. But that can only be true if people think outside of those standard structures and look within themselves for what works for them individually. There are other cultures where the traditional family is very different from what we picture only because they figured out something that works for them and repeated and reinforced that. It’s all just relative to what they were conditioned to believe. Culture is a funny thing in that sense, we don’t even realize how much of what we think about the world is not based on fact but simply the things that we were taught to believe.

  6. I believe that it is one of the reasons that some sisters refuse to pursue higher education because they are scared to not find a man later in life! I believe it is misogynist that some men cannot accept to have as a partner a successful female.

  7. Milford Woodard on

    i don,t see a problem with who makes the most. It suppose to be for the two of you, if there is a problem with that, then yes it will be a problem. Some people will brag about that fact, no person want to hear, then the fights begin. Yes, it do hurt to hear it, and put yourself in the other person shoes..

  8. Great article, My wife has always made more money than I have. check this out. were coming up on our 31st anniversary this month on the 18th. I like what you said,”I have also seen homes where women were the ones that earned more money than their husbands but what stood out to me as significant was not the size of the woman’s paycheck, but her personal conduct”. THAT’S IT! RIGHT THERE. My wife and I agreed early on that all the money goes into the kitty. She has never ever made me feel bad about anything to do with money. What ever has come up we attacked it together. We have always been a great team. Be a team. 31 years y’all, Love Ya

  9. In some ways I can agree…..times are hard for everyone. But my thing is this-what do you call it when the breadwinning role falls on the woman and the man becomes lazy? And when I say lazy I mean not looking for a job, ever…..not even cleaning up the house. The wife has to bring home the bacon, cook it, then clean up behind it. According to him, “his woman is supposed to hold him down because she is his wife” and he doesn’t reciprocate at all. Isn’t the wife entitled to feel a certain way about that?

  10. If you are unable to get along because she makes more than you, my thoughts are you are not supposed to be together in the 1st place!

    You married for the wrong reasons!

    It’s 2013 things are different, women have better educations and are a lot less threatening to the powers that be, consequently the job opportunities are greater and they (the ladies) take advantage of it. More power to them!

  11. First and foremost, men need to understand that much of the burdon to provide for the family is on his back. The black man is no different. The world will ask, how big was the ring and how much did he leave her. I read that many brothers wanted to be taken care of in retirement, you will not make it that far. As Beyonce said, “I can have another you in a minute” These women are successful because they are smart. They are surrounded by successful males that may not look like you, but you are being compaired to these people. The only thing that can save these marriages is true love. Otherwise, manhood would be challenged to the breaking point. Love can only overcome so much. As her career becomes deamanding, a weakened spouse will be demanding too. Most women will not cut off their source of power to please a non bread winner whose voice is getting loud and demanding, while at work, the accolades are flowing. Keep in mind, the world is waiting to lock black men up, so you had better lower your voice. Eric Benet, “I want my cut”. Holle Berry said, “You will get nothing and like it” The script has been flipped, do not be unequally yoked together because you will pay the price.

  12. Think on this, Black women making more money today is because they are given jobs quicker than Black men, to help bring about the destruction of the black family and some of our women are falling into the trap.

    • How Rite you are. Women are so bussy Competeing that they for gfet about family, and Cry single mom. GET BACK TO COMETTING TO FAMILY LIFE.

      • Sounds like excuses to me. Black women are giving jobs before black men? Maybe this is true b/c there are more educated black women than black men so stats will show that more black women are being hired in management/higher paid jobs than black men. That’s basic math if black women are graduating with degrees than black men! lol. But to say that companies hire black women over black men in general across all jobs is just not true.

        Companies would actually rather hire males before females depending on the area of work but if they don’t have many options to do so regarding black men…who else do you think they are going to hire? Can’t stand when brothers make excuses for not being in a certain position and blaming it on the fact that they are a black man. As being black male or female we go through some of the same issues. Although women are progressing in large numbers..it’s still “A Man’s World.” It’s up to the person..man or woman to make it happen for themselves!

  13. This is a huge problem because there are a few factors before man would provide period and women would nurture the family. The reason why this work is because it is the natural order of things. Now it is the reverse and there are 70% single women out there with a ton of children without fathers. The next thing is no man should ever feel threatened by a women making more period. The only reason they do is because they feel guilty and know that is what they should be doing providing. Where the brothers messed up is playing the “gold digging card” where the result became for women to go and get their own. At the same time brothers failed to realize they would always feel a type of way because it is in their DNA to be the provider. So now she got all the material things she needs now she carrying the attitude, chasing brothers away. So she ends up not getting what she really wanted a mate. The only time things will get back the way it used to be with brothers and sisters is when they realize there position and actually play it.
    Brothers do not let a higher income make you feel insecure, women do not act as if you have become a man just because you making more. Communication is key if you cannot handle being with someone making more do not get with one if you can talk it out to see what is expected on both ends

  14. If there is a large disparity in earnings btw what the woman makes than the guy then i can believe this statement/stats. To each its own and couples involved should know what they are able to handle and should discuss these issues and others before getting married!

    This is why i believe in being equally yoked mentally, financially, spiritually and in other major areas with my partner to avoid issues like this. I don’t need my husband to make more than me but if there is a LARGE desparity btw me earning more than him (30K+) then it would be an issue for me.

    Many like to use the Obamas as an example BUT when you have two educated individuals with law degreeas…i don’t think that is a very good example. Yes, they struggled early on as law students have a ton of debt and have a hard time trying to get established but it’s not like they were going to be in that position for a long time. It’s not hard as a woman to stand by a man with a law degree just starting out than with someone who doesn’t have a long term career path or trade. It’s not a big risk with a lawyer vs. a garbage man or wanna be rapper or producer.

  15. While men are very slow to catch on, there has been a growing war against Males by women and the Media. Now, the sociological differential treatment of women versus men from a young age is now creating an environment where women are rapidly surging ahead, both in lower and higher socioeconomic environments. The lower the socioeconomic bracket and time in that bracket the more profound the more old fashioned aggressive treatment toward Males and more correct treatment of Females. For African Americans this is creating a very bad outcome both for Male earnings and marriage Women and yes the press have begun to feel an advantage today. This feeling of superiority is now being spread to many places such as stores, public and government offices, and employment. Males today, including husbands are not being bitten not just by wives and friends for earning less, but also by the media, stores, and employment, which now fosters more formalistic, patronizing women in charge of those areas and perfectly willing to give such subtle abuse to those Males. So these days, even if the wife is doing all the right things, her Male mate is still being leveled upon by many areas of society from women in power and the freedom of expression to abuse in subtle and overt ways. I feel this problem will increase in negative synergy over time against Males who will fall further and further behind due to differential treatment. I fear there will be a critical point where Males will begin to take back in various ways all they have lost and with interest. I feel once chivalry (or respect for women)is completely lost and Males begin to fall behind collectively, there will be a moment of no rational cure. My learning theory shows how differential treatment and not genetics (as some persons feel)is responsible for Male failures and Female successes.

  16. The money is irrelevant. Most black women think they are better than a man…period.

    I have a bachelors and an advanced degree. I meet women every day with no degrees and children all over the place. And they immediatley try to jump in my face and talk down to me.

    And we know what my response is.

  17. The money is irrelevant. Most women think they are better than a man…period.

    I have a bachelors degree and an advanced degree. I meet women every day with no degrees and children all over the place. And they immediately try to jump in my face and talk down to me.

    Can you imagine the nerve. And my response is to tell each and every one of them where they can go.

  18. My name is alisa I am from Dubai, I want to thank Dr.Magbu for the spell he did for me after I lost my husband to another lady at his working place, Dr.Magbu cast a spell for me and in 3 days my husband return home to my kids with so much love, if you need his help! contact [email protected]

  19. William Harrison on

    story not totally true. what are the incomes ranges of the divorce rates. my wife makes more then me; however, we both have higher than average incomes. It’s not much anyway. I feel couples divorce because she constantly reminds him that she makes more. I have a buddy that his wife told him she’s the boss. WTF. NO. YOU ARE THE WIFE.

  20. Some men cannot handle their wives making more than them because they were taught that they were better than women. Men were taught that they are suppose to rule over women. A man’s world view becomes threaterned and the relationship breaks down. My wife is better educated than I am. She is more highly regarded than I am professionally. There is no power struggle because we both have our roles in the family. I see my wife as my equal and I treat her as such. Just chill out and be the best person that you can be.

  21. I don’t think the problem is with women making more than men. As a woman who makes more than her husband, the problem is often times that even after women take on the weight (and it is a weight) of being the primary breadwinner, she’s still expected to be the primary housekeeper, cook, caretaker, social planner, organizer, and emotional leader in the relationship. It’s a catch 22 because the bigger the gap in income, a lot of times, the more the man feels he has to leave all those “woman” activities to his wife to feel like the “man” in the relationship. So a woman is left having to stay on top of her game at work to make sure the family can maintain their lifestyle and then start her second job when she gets home taking care of everyone. This causes resentment to build, especially if the man is not living up to his full earning potential.

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