Antiquated social norms cause unhappy marriages where wives work - FOX 35 News Orlando

Antiquated social norms may cause unhappy marriages where wives work: Study

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

More women than ever before are the sole or primary breadwinners in their household. But some are blaming divorce rates, and even the lack of education in America, on women in the workplace.

There's been some controversial talk lately about how women in the workforce are undermining marriages, family stability, and even their child's education.

But a study released by the University of Chicago in May points to old-fashioned expectations about a male and females role in society for unhappy marriages.

"If I were making more money than my husband, I would feel a certain sense of accomplishment," one Chicago woman said.

"If my wife made more money, I'd be OK with that," one Chicago man said.

It's no secret gender roles have been evolving. A recent Pew Research Center study showed women are the sole or primary breadwinner in 40 percent of U.S. households with children - a record high.

The question is whether attitudes are changing along with the statistics. During a Washington Post live event on Tuesday, Mississippi governor Phil Bryant said working mothers contribute to America's educational troubles.

"I think both parents started working," Bryant said, "and the mom is in the work place."

Then there was this heated exchange last week between FOX News Channel's Megan Kelly, Lou Dobbs and another male panelist. The men argued that women who choose to work are hurting their families.

"If it really is bad to have both parents work, perhaps we should have dads stay at home," Dr. Emir Kamenica said. "Stay at home, change diapers and cook while the wife goes out."

The University of Chicago Booth School of Business' Dr. Kamenica just published the study with two colleagues Marianne Bertran and Jessica Pan.

The results found it's not the women, but old fashioned social norms that are affecting stability in marriages and families.

"Once wife starts to earn more than the husband, the probability of divorce starts to increase," Kamenica said. "We're trying to document that there are some remnants of what I think are very old fashioned and anachronistic preferences that are still holding women back together and sort of being disruptive."

Kamenica most surprising aspect of the study is the finding that women who earn more than their husbands actually do more household work.

"Perhaps when a wife earns more than a husband, perhaps he feels threatened, perhaps she feels like his masculinity is compromised," Kamenica said. "One way to adjust to that is to retreat to traditional gender roles in household."

Kamenica said social norms evolve over time. Just as women have made gains in the corporate world, the view of the "appropriate role" for a man and woman in a marriage will adjust with time.

What the paper doesn't look into is who is to blame for the dissipating marriage when the woman earns more: The husband's ego, or wife's high expectations.

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