There’s been a lot of talk in the last month or so about the male-female dynamic, especially when it comes to the genders and their relationship with money – both earning and investing. Possibly driving the conversation? A recently revealed Pew Poll which revealed a rather startling figure: 40% of households with children count mothers as the sole or primary earner. We’re witnessing the rise of the female breadwinner in America.
This survey was accompanied by the following chart, showing the recent growth trend in females out-earning their male counterparts:
It’s definitely a new era in American sexual dynamics, wouldn’t you say?
The New American Female Breadwinner: What Sticks Out
Worrying, of course, is the primary driver of the trend – the growth in households with single mothers. It is, of course, not a new phenomenon – even the 1960 results showed that 7.3% of households with children under 18 were headed by a sole female breadwinner. However, more than a quarter of households in the recent release have fit the profile – a full 25.3% of households with children.
The flip side of the coin is the dual income household, with the larger share of the income coming from the mother’s side. We’ve gone from an also-ran category claiming just 3.5% of the votes (similar in size to the “Other/Don’t Knows” we get in other surveys) to a significant 15% of all households with children. This isn’t a fluke in the data, either – even though marriages are happening at a later age (Wikipedia lists 28.9 years for men and 26.9 for women from 2011 data in the US), fertility often lasts into the 40s, negating arguments about “child-bearing age”. As for “Stay at Home Dads?” (who I’ve heard affectionately AND sarcastically referred to as Mr. Moms), our good friend Free by 50 found that in 2011 there were only around 176,000 Stay at Home Dads in America.
Parity in the Workplace?
As we’ve documented here, recent recessions (over the last 50 years or so) have impacted male employment levels much more than female levels. Add to that the statistic that women recently passed men in Doctorate level degrees awarded, completing the clean sweep for degrees (Why do we still call an undergraduate degree a “Bachelor’s Degree”?), and the fact that single women out-earn single men (most significantly in cities). All that adds up to an interesting conclusion: we’re moving to (or even beyond!) parity in male-female workforce dynamics.
Don’t believe me? Well, I’m sure you’d agree that the majority of disparity in male-female earning used to come among married couples. Post-Great Recession the total income has pulled close to even. Women now contribute a full 47% of income to the finances of married households. Combined with the statistics I cited above about the number of advanced degree holders, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the numbers reverse themselves in the next few years as the female breadwinner couple becomes even more popular.
Recent Controversies and Female Ascendancy
It’s fair to call females ascendant, in aggregate – women earn way more degrees (and money) than in the past, and they contribute almost the same amount to household income. However, what’s a good label for males in this story of female success? Echoing the dismal employment picture for men vis-à-vis women we covered on Monday, is it fair to say there is a male “decline”?
One cause of the male decline in the workforce is surely the collapse of so-called male-dominated industries. As stated by our friend Suba on Monday, certainly the generational decline of manufacturing ranks highly (as an industry with lower barriers to entry and a heavily male workforce) as does the Great Recession’s obliteration of the construction industry. Consider that nowadays, only industries which require physical stature necessarily are male-dominated – testosterone certainly confers physical advantages – but knowledge based industries throw up no such barrier. Outdated stereotypes of female intelligence are thankfully falling down as studies reveal that the average IQ for both sexes is very close. All this translates to more women in previously male-dominated knowledge industries like engineering, banking and finance. In finance? Witness the reaction to Paul Tudor Jones’s comments about the effect of having children on women’s ability to invest.
More likely, Mr. Jones, the stereotypes which kept women out of the investing world only recently fell… and as it requires a long career to gain a reputation as a successful investor (for good cause – what is one good call worth?), next generation we’ll see some gender diversity on investing panels! In fact, women hedge fund managers already generate more alpha than their male counterparts, according to a 2013 study by Rothstein Kass.
The Changing Face of the American Workforce
What will the next years bring? If current trends hold, as we expect they will for at least a bit – the next few years might reveal a country with more females working than males. Those females will probably make more than males. There will probably be a greater number of stay-at-home-dads. Unfortunately, there will probably also be a greater number of single parent households.
Interestingly, even though the stigma which worked against females in the workforce has now mainly been erased, there is still an intra-couple ennui when females outearn males. Vague unease and an increased rate of divorce doesn’t seem to be slowing down the recent trends however – which makes me curious… how many of you readers have an opinion on this subject? Are you in (or are you well acquainted with) a female-breadwinner household? What do you think the workforce will look like in 10 years?