Saturday, June 1, 2013
The Mrs. Makes More. So What!
A new study by the Pew Research Center made waves this week as it revealed that in four of ten households, the female is the breadwinner. It sparked a response by this Lou Dobbs panel on Fox News where they made it sound as if society is now doomed to crumble because more and more women are now outearning their partners (5.1mil in 2011). Unbelievably, the panelists spoke of the "harm" this could cause children, and how we're going to lose a generation due to this new social order. In addition to the completely short-sighted, sexist arguments, I was puzzled by how this was even surprising given the statistics, particularly in Black and Brown communities. The rate of women matriculating to college, and therefore putting themselves in position to obtatin high-paying professional work, outpaces their male counterparts by almost a third according to the National Center of Education Statistics (NCES). In addition, it's a stretch at best to correlate earning potential with a man's desire for a partner.
For over a decade now I have been married to a woman who has always made more than me. It didn't stop her from saying yes when I proposed, and it hasn't stopped us from raising two "marginally" well-adjusted boys, so forgive me if I don't see what Lou Dobbs and his panel are asserting. Marriage is a partnership and the ones that last recognize that it doesn't matter how the resources come in, it just matters that they come in so the bills can be paid. I'm happy in my profession and my wife is happy in hers so where's the destruction of American "moral fiber"? What the Dobbs' panel seems to be missing is that gender is not tied to what you earn. I am not less of a "man" because I make less than my wife, nor would I be if I didn't make anything at all because I was unemployed. The Dobbs panel and news articles with the same tone are dangerous because they send the message that old gender roles should still rule the day when that is far from reality. They also send the message to young men that they are less than if they can't make more than their partner, and that really isn't the foundation a healthy relationship should be built on.
What is of concern is that of the 8.6 million single-mom breadwinners, the median income is only $23,000. The majority of these women are more likely to be Black or Latino and are not college educated, which limits their earning potential. Yes, children born to single-moms can "make it" (see Barack Obama), but it is a tough road to hoe without tremendous amounts of support. We do need to adjust the message that we send to teens who get pregnant. Rewarding them with the chance to be contestants on reality shows is not the direction we should continue to move towards.