Survey: American Women Are ‘Ashamed’ of Earning More than Their Boyfriends and Husbands

September 1958: An employee of the 'Housewives Help Service' hoovering the living room of a businesswoman while she relaxes. (Photo by Frank Martin/BIPs/Getty Images)

Women are uncomfortable out-earning their boyfriends and husbands, according to a new survey.

According to a report from Refinery 29, young women are uncomfortable navigating a relationship in which they out-earn their significant other. A survey revealed that many American women would be uncomfortable being the breadwinner in a relationship, citing concerns that the responsibility of providing for their partner would be tiring.

When asked how they would feel if they knew right now that they would always be the breadwinner in their current marriages and relationships, words like “tired,” “exhausted,” and that special one, “resentful” turned up over and over again. One woman responded, “It’s stressful. It’s a huge responsibility. I pressure myself to stay in the job I’m at even if I’m unhappy there.” Another wrote, “I kind of assume this will be the case, just based on our past jobs and strengths/interests. It makes me feel a little weary sometimes, like I may never get a break, or get to pursue something I might really love, but if I COULD do something I really loved while making enough money to support us, I would be perfectly fine with that.” This was a common theme in the responses. Most of these women didn’t mind being the breadwinner as long as they eventually had the option to make less, their partners contributed equally in the household, and it didn’t trap them into jobs they no longer wanted.

One commenter on the Refinery 29 article condemned the attitudes of the women who participated in the survey, arguing that at no point was it mentioned that men must have historically experienced similar stress over having to provide for their wives: “The primary revelation of this article seems to be the stress and pressure that results from supporting another individual and a family. It’s curious that no observation is made that this is what men fulfilling this role for hundreds of years prior must have felt.”

That might not be correct. Perhaps one reason husbands tend to earn more than their wives is that they are more comfortable with being the top earning spouse.

In 2015, 38 percent of American wives made more than their husbands. This trend is increasing, as less than a quarter of American women out-earned their husbands in 1987. However, research from the University of Chicago revealed that relationships in which wives making even $5,000 more than their husband annually were more likely to end in divorce. Research from Washington University in St. Louis on marriages in Denmark revealed that wives earning more than their husbands were more likely to take anti-anxiety medications and also more likely to suffer from insomnia.

According to a report by The New York Times, most young Americans expect to equally share financial and child-rearing responsibilities with their partner. “When young Americans are asked about their family aspirations, large majorities choose equally shared breadwinning and child-rearing if the option of family-friendly work policies is mentioned.” This may be, in part, due to the reality that there is a financial advantage for couples in which both partners have an income.

Tom Ciccotta is a libertarian who writes about economics and higher education for Breitbart News. You can follow him on Twitter @tciccotta or email him at


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