Poll: Female breadwinners

Liza Mundy joins us tomorrow to talk about the “The Big Flip”: when women overtake men as the chief breadwinners in American households.

We’ll discuss how this affect families, dating and workplaces. Mundy says the change will be hard, but ultimately good for all.

Are you as optimistic as Mundy about the change?

Stephanie Curtis, social media host

  • Jennifer

    Is “chief breadwinner” defined as the spouse who earns more? I have to wonder if we’re due for a redefinition of the term.

    In my case, my spouse is in business for himself, and I hold the steady job with the benefits. He makes more than me, but the business isn’t steady, which forces us to rely heavily on my earnings. This wouldn’t be so bad if actually earned more than he does! So do we still call him “the breadwinner”? He may WIN the bread, but I knead it, I bake it, I slice it and I serve it.

  • Adam

    As a stay-at-home-dad, I think my wife would certainly qualify as our “breadwinner.” That said, I see many of my friends (in our 30’s), both with and without kids, in relationships where the woman earns more than the man. My mother-in-law also earned more than my father-in-law for most of their professional lives. This shouldn’t be terribly surprising given that the the majority of college graduates in the last decade of so at many colleges have been women.

  • Craigger

    What? Couldn’t find a linguist to respond to listeners’ (and bloggers’, tweeters’ and face-bookers’) language pet peeves? What about another female author discussing some aspect of life in France? (That last one was interesting?) Or a near “daily” discussion of young people and life after college/looking for work/paying off student loan debt? No? Time for another “Ladies, what is up with guys?” show. You’ve done this exact topic at least twice in less than the past twelve months! Maybe not with THIS author, discussing (promoting) THIS book but come on!?!? Am I right gals? There isn’t a female breadwinner in our household that I am aware of. This gay sustaining member can’t wait to hear The Daily Circuit’s first in depth show on an LGBT topic. Or does gay marriage not happen between 9 and noon? Maybe I’m mistaken and your listener base consists of only middle-aged women dreaming of Paris, twentysomething friends of your producers, evangelical/atheists with a strong interest in more science coverage and Tom’s cats. If so, sorry.

  • Stephanie

    My partner and I seesaw. My income is steady but his fluctuates. It doesn’t matter who earns more as long as at least one of us has a salary we can count on.

  • Shelli

    I am a single mother of 1 who has solely been responsible for my little family’s fianaces. I wish that my pay was comepensory to what a man makes in the same position. I work as a System’s Analyst and make less than what I made before I got laid off in 2008.

  • Jon

    Interesting to see how these changes and the effects (i.e. women waiting till later to marry, have children, looking for men who will better support them and their children) are very in line with evolutionary theories.

    That is when men are in more power in society they seek to have children and couple off earlier on in life so they can have more children.

  • Maggie

    I’d be interested in hearing how the extended family feels–how do parents feel about their educated daughters marrying an uneducated man, a general laborer. Are they advised it may not work out?

  • Amy

    I wonder if the author has interviewed people in same-sex partnerships. What can be learned about this question of earning from those in our community who have experienced relationship beyond the issue of gender? Frankly, this feels like yet another discussion where the assumption about men and women is that all are in or looking for a heterosexual relationship.

  • Josh

    My wife is the primary bread winner in our house. She is an MD I’am an RN. Yet for taxes I get listed as head of household. Makes me chuckle each time as My wonderful, smart funny wife makes three times what I do and is the anchor that holds are family together.

  • stephanie


    Great point. I am going to see if we can’t find someone who looks at how same-sex couples balance work-family-finances.

  • Carrie

    My husband and I have a severely disabled child. When the state of Minnesota made it possible for parents to get paid out of their child’s MA budget to care for their child rather than paying a PCA, it made sense for one of us to stay home. Since I have the better job, my husband quit his job and is staying home to deal with the constant issues that our son presents us. It works out well for our family.

  • An Answer from Liza Mundy for Amy

    Liza Mundy responds to Amy:

    I do talk about same-sex couples in my book, because in many ways same-sex partners offer a model for heterosexual couples finding their way forward in an era of female prosperity and academic achievement. For one thing, same-sex couples historically have been willing to partner outside conventional boundaries–more willing to partner with people of different income levels, different social classes, occupations and races. Among same-sex couples there is less obsession with “matching,” possibly because they are matching in the realm of sexual orientation. In my book, I suggest that today’s college-educated women might take a page out of this book; facing a shortage of similarly credentialed men with whom they can easily “match,” women today might want to relax their concern with finding a guy who is just like them, and consider partnering with men who are outside traditional boundaries, either in terms of schooling or occupation or race.

    Similarly, same-sex couples are less likely to organize household labor along traditional gender lines. They are more likely to decide who does what chore–or who works for pay, and who stays home with children–based on affinity rather than gender stereotype. Studies show that while there can be disputes over money, and while sometimes the breadwinning parter can feel more entitled (as happened in The Kids are All Right, where Annette Bening played a breadwinning lesbian woman who sometimes condescended to her stay-at-home partner), in general, same-sex partners are better about talking about these issues and keeping them on the table. So they are models for all of us, going forward. This is not to idealize same-sex unions, but in general there does seem to be less concern with matching, and more freedom to assign duties and roles based on affinity rather than stereotype.

  • Theresa

    My husband and I have taken turns being the “breadwinners”. Frankly, we don’t like that term and really don’t use it. We both have advanced degrees but we have also experienced periods where employment was an issue. We see our family as a team and when one person “wins” in the work world, we all do. My husband has never been jealous or petty about making less or making more than me, and we’ve gone back and forth in this arrangement. He works in education, and I work in social services. My career has meant perhaps less pay at times but better benefits which he has taken advantage of. Now, he is gainfully employed and makes a decent wage but it wasn’t always this way. In the past, when we first had our son, he probably did more caretaking and at home unpaid labor than I did because he wasn’t working as much. He has been fully active in the parenting role and has never skipped a beat. We have shared household chores and parenting and try to keep that very equal. Other men (even progressive-thinking men) have been “surprised” to hear that he was up in the middle of the night with our son; he changed probably more diapers than I have, etc. He has said missing out on all of the closeness and bonding with his child is priceless, and he doesn’t understand men who don’t do an equal share. Our relationship isn’t about competition–it’s about shared responsibility and being a team. It’s definitely a win-win situation. After 18 years together, we must be doing something right.