The Duck of Minerva

The Duck Quacks at Twilight

Women’s Income, Household Chores, Divorce, and the Need for a Norm Cascade

May 15, 2013

In between making organic cupcakes for my daughters’ school, completing a grant application, tending my organic vegetables, and finishing an R&R for a journal, I came across this little gem of a working paper (thanks to Freakonomics Blog).[1] This new research shows the following:

“Couples where the wife earns more than the husband are less satisfied with their marriage and are more likely to divorce. Finally, based on time use surveys, the gender gap in non-market work is larger if the wife earns more than the husband” (abstract).

So, in a nutshell, women who earn more than their husbands get a whole bunch of bad stuff as a result: divorce and unhappiness, plus more time spent cleaning the toilet.  As a female academic who makes X times more than my public-school teacher spouse, I’m not sure what to make of this.[2]  The social science methods are commendable.  The conclusions seem to follow existing literature. It’s also consistent with advice great female scholars in the discipline have given me at various Women in Methodology and Women in Conflict Studies events. [3] Thankfully, I can’t really reconcile this with my own experiences either in my marriage or in the division of labor in my household.[4] I hope to remain an outlier.

I’ve mulled this over for a day or so and have come to the only conclusion that someone (a) with two little girls and (b) who studies advocacy and human rights can: I’m going to be a norm entrepreneur on this one. The new[5] norm I’m going to be promoting: real men can handle their spouse making more than them.  And, they can help clean the toilet.

Who’s with me?

[1] Ok, so only 2 out of 4 of these are true.  But, I do buy the very best in Little Debbie snacks for my daughters’ events.

[2] Both salaries are pretty low, all things considered.

[3] These are cool events. I’ve heard Journeys in World Politics is also very informative.

[4] My N of 1.  If I’m ever at a conference where this paper is presented, I’ll be a good audience member and not ask why their paper doesn’t account for me and my datapoint.

[5] This really isn’t a new norm, which is why this study is so sad to me.

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Amanda Murdie is Professor & Dean Rusk Scholar of International Relations in the Department of International Affairs in the School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Georgia. She is the author of Help or Harm: The Human Security Effects of International NGOs (Stanford, 2014). Her main research interests include non-state actors, and human rights and human security.

When not blogging, Amanda enjoys hanging out with her two pre-teen daughters (as long as she can keep them away from their cell phones) and her fabulous significant other.