WOMEN

Women Who Marry Lower-Earning Men Don't Experience Wage Drop After Kids, Study Finds

07/17/2013 06:31 pm ET
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Should women be marrying men who make less money to better retain their own incomes? According to one study, high-earning women (of which there are more and more) might do better in their careers when they marry men who are not so high-earning.

Economists Marianne Bertrand, Claudia Goldin, and Lawrence Katz tracked the earnings of male and female University of Chicago MBAs from 1990 to 2000. They found that women who married lower-earning men experienced less of an income drop after having children than those married to men who earned the same as them or more.

According to Alison Schrager of the Atlantic, "a large and sustained drop in income is highly correlated with having children and a high-earning husband." Schrager suggests that high-achieving women specifically choose lower-earning husbands with the expectation that they'll be more available to provide childcare.

Another option: female breadwinners don't experience an income drop after having children because the family cannot afford for them to do so. In households where a woman is earning less than her spouse, she may have the luxury of workplace flexibility after having kids, balancing any pay drop she accepts against her spouse's higher earnings. But if a woman is earning more than her partner, it seems logical that her family would depend on her income -- and so accepting a pay cut would put her family's financial well-being at risk.

It seems unlikely that women are actively seeking out partners that earn less, and more likely that couples are simply dealing with the reality of their financial situations if and when they decide to have children.

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