In movies, on TV, and in the reality of the past several centuries, women went to college to find wealthy husbands, at least in the majority of cases. Baring college, women would seek out men who earned "good livings" to support them.
That traditional stereotype, based on statistical fact, has reversed itself, according to a study reported on NPR's Morning Edition this morning. Follows is the start of the story, with full audio and trascript available on the NPR web site. The full story includes a link a download, with charts, statistics and charts from the Pew Research Center.
It is important to note that the study used 1970 and 2007, both years prior to recessions that may have skewed the numbers. During 2008 and 2009 the "great recession" saw, for the first time in US History, more male primary bread-earners lose their jobs than lower level paying jobs for men and women.
Adjusted incomes have not risen with the cost of living over the same period studied, so the need for two income families has drastically increased. With this change women have entered the work place in large numbers, bringing their skills, talents and ambitions into the economic mix. An intesting side note is that in doing so, women entering the work force may have contributed to keeping pay scale growth below increased costs of living.
Commission jobs have seen commission levels drop. International competition and other factors have deceased profit margins. There are many other factors to study in looking at the broader issue of why it is women now earn, on the average, more than their spouse, and why women are seeing and earning college degrees in larger numbers.
A summary of the NPR story follows:
January 19, 2010
The joke used to be that some women went to college to get their M.R.S. — that is, a husband. In sheer economic terms, marriage was long the best way for a woman to get ahead. But a study by the Pew Research Center finds that there's been a role reversal when it comes to men, women and the economics of marriage.
The study compares marriages in 2007 with those in 1970, when few wives worked — and it's no wonder why. Until 1964, a woman could legally be fired when she got married. Even a woman with a college degree likely made less than a man with a high-school diploma.
Many more women are now working, and in a greater variety of jobs. Add to that the decline of gender discrimination, and women's median wages have risen sharply in recent decades even as men's have remained stagnant or fallen.
On top of this — for the first time ever among those age 44 and younger —- more women than men have college degrees.
"Now, women have a completely different point of view," Coontz says. "They say overwhelmingly — 87 percent — that it's more important to have a man who can communicate well, who can be intimate and who will share the housework than to have someone who makes more money than you do."