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Pew Report: Thank Your Wives, You Lucky Bastards

03/22/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

In a report on the "new economics of marriage" released yesterday, the good folks at the Pew Research Center have a much-needed message for college-educated married men: Say thank you to your wives, you lucky bastards.

In the last four decades, "the economic gains associated with marriage have been greater for men than for women," write coauthors Richard Fry and D'Vera Cohn. Why? Because college-educated married men are increasingly likely to be married to the highest-income, highest-educated wives. That translates to more household income, a boost that men didn't expect to receive from marriage two generations ago. And here everyone thought that the feminist revolution had been all about the ladies.

Among the highlights of the report:

• Education Matters: The share of men with a college-educated wife has risen, while the share of women with a college-educated husband has fallen, the Pew authors report. Again, the guys have it good: In 2007, 71% of college educated husbands had a college-educated wife - up dramatically from 1970 where only 37% did. But the opposite trend is effect for women: Because more women than men are graduating from college (estimates for 2010 are that nearly 142 women will graduate from college for every 100 men) it's more likely that a woman will marry a man with less education than it was four decades ago.

• Educated Wives Are More Likely to Work for Pay: On average, college-educated wives contribute about 36% of the income for married-couple households. And the more education a woman has, the more likely she is to earn as much or more than her husband, so the rise in women's education--and the fact that the majority of married women combine paid work with motherhood--has been quite a boon for the men they marry.

• Wives Who Earn More Have (A Bit) More Power: Pew asked respondents who had the final say on financial matters--the wife, the husband or were decisions shared? These are always loaded questions--and complicated because in many couples the who "earns more" varies from year to year--but the survey found that breadwinner wives are more likely to call the financial shots. Among couples where the wife outearns her husband, 46% said financial decisions are made mostly by the woman, while 33% said the decisions were shared. Or, another way to look at it, is that even when the wife earns more than the husband, he still calls the shots nearly a quarter of the time.

So, guys, this boils down to some practical advice: Find a college-educated young lady and do your best to get her to marry you. Then be very, very nice to her because she's not only brightening your world, she's making it quite a bit richer, too.

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