UNSW Economics Professor Gigi Foster, who you may know from her appearances on ABC’s Q&A and The Economists podcast, has done some fascinating research on the phenomenon of female breadwinning, whereby, in around one-in-four partnerships, the female earns more than the male (e.g. see Does Female Breadwinning Make Partnerships Less Healthy or Less Stable?). In Australia and the US, female breadwinning increases the risk of an unhappy relationship, possibly because it is a blow to the male ego. Furthermore, in the US, female breadwinning increases the likelihood of relationship dissolution among young co-habiting couples. This appears to be because some young women think that, if their partner earns less than they do, they could do much better. Ultimately, people try to find partners that are at (or above) their level, so to speak, and income is one characteristic among others (e.g. physical attractiveness, sense of humour, conversational ability, etc.) that are relevant.
I spoke with Gigi about her research earlier this week and our conversation is now available as the latest episode of my Economics Explored podcast. Please check it out for some great insights into female breadwinning and also into the gender pay gap.
Finally, I should note that, disturbingly, in Australia, it also appears that female breadwinning is associated with a greater risk of domestic violence, according to new research from ANU’s Bob Breunig and Yinjunjie Zhang, research which Gigi mentioned in my conversation with her (see Women are more likely to experience domestic violence when they out-earn their partner).
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