Over the past four decades, women have been responsible for bringing home an increasing proportion of their household income — yet when it comes to deeply ingrained beliefs about whose responsibility it is to be the breadwinner, men are still the default, according to a new study.
The findings, released by the Pew Research Center, looked at couples from 1980 through the current day and found that the percentage of women in couples who earn as much as or more than their male partner jumped from just 13% to 28%, while the number of male breadwinners dropped from 87% to 69%.
Yet 72% of men surveyed said they believe it’s important for the man in a relationship to be able to financially support his family in order to be a good partner, while just 25% of men thought that a woman needs to be a breadwinner to be a good spouse, researchers found.
“In most couples, men contribute more of the income, and this aligns with the fact that Americans place a higher value on a man’s role as financial provider,” researchers wrote.
The study did not look at same-sex marriages.
Women had similar expectations of the men in their lives, with 71% of women surveyed expecting their male partners to bring home the bacon to qualify as a good partner, the study found. But women had higher financial expectations of themselves, with 39% saying that women should be able to provide financially for their families.
The expectations of a male breadwinner are consistent regardless of level of income or race, although high-school educated couples have higher expectations of a wife who can financially contribute than those with a higher degree, researchers found.