New Gender Economics Has Professional-Class Women Looking at Their Mates and Thinking: How Long Until I Vote You Off the Island?
Todayâs women haveÂ achieved a goal that social commentators have inveighed against for centuries: economic inÂdependence. RailedÂ The TimesÂ of London in 1868, in opposing property rights for married women: âThe proposed change would totally destroy the existing relation between husband and wife.â An American letter-writer declared in 1903:
The wife who has her own income is thereby rendered a poorer wife [and,] feeling independent of her natural protector, she becomes more critical, less lenient to his faults and failings.Andâas Dr. Phil would askâhowâs all that freedom workingÂ âŚ forÂ us? Not very well, says Mary Eberstadt, author ofÂ Adam and Eve After the Pill. The sexual revolutionâs legacy, she maintains, is âthe paradox of declining female happiness.â She cites a 2009 study in which two Wharton School professors, using 35 years of General Social Survey data, found that despite educational and employment advances, women were reportedly less happy than they used to be. Ouch!
Into this gloomy landscape, however, strides Liza Mundy, her bold new vision encapsulated inÂ The Richer Sex: How the New Majority of Female Breadwinners Is Transforming Sex, Love, and Family. Instead of being a castrating, unmarriageable harpy, todayâs reproductively and economically free female, Mundy asserts, is the trigger for a challenging but exciting new social order. In 2012 America, as she points out, women are better educated than men (women earn the majority of bachelorâs and graduate degrees); an escalating number of single women younger than 30 earn more than their male peers; and nine of the 10 U.S. job industries with the most projected growth are women-Âdominated. This last figure has resulted from various societal shifts, ranging from a late-20th-century fall in manufacturing jobs to the rise of such lucrative, almost exclusively female professions as psychotherapy. (Indeedâdo youÂ knowÂ a male therapist? I donât, and my last therapist charged a murderous $275 an hour.)
In nearly 40 percent of American marriages, the wife earns more than the husband. Data indicate that this power inversion can trigger not just problems with gender identity but a troubling amount of male infidelity (peculiar new trend: women who are financially dependent on their husbands tend to be faithful, while, paraÂdoxically, financially dependent men tend to stray). One 2010 study showed that when a womanâs contribution to household income tops 60Â percent, the couple is more likely to divorce.