Whether a Husband Identifies as a Breadwinner Depends on Whether He Respects His Wife’s Career — Not on How Much She Earns

Source: Erin Reid, Harvard Business Review, August 15, 2018

…. My research suggests that while some men fall back on the classic identity of a breadwinner, others respond to this tension by adopting the modern identity of what I call a “breadsharer.” Research on dual-career couples often focuses on how spouses balance their earnings or work hours, but my research showed that these groups of men differed most fundamentally in how they perceived the social status of their wives’ work — its worth and prestige in society. This perception in turn shaped how men described the financial value of their wives’ work. In other words, wages are far more than just dollars: As sociologist Viviana Zelizer has eloquently detailed, money is imbued with meaning, and this meaning shapes how we regard and treat that money. My research reveals how men’s evaluations of the prestige and social worth of their wives’ work shaped how they positioned their wives’ earnings — namely in ways that diminished or that elevated their financial value. ….

Related:
Straying from breadwinning: Status and money in men’s interpretations of their wives’ work arrangements
Erin M. Reid, gender, Work & Organization, Online First, published: 28 June 2018
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From the abstract:
The male breadwinner identity is culturally associated with career success for men, particularly in the professions, but today, few married men’s lives easily map onto this identity. This study analyses interviews with 42 married men employed in US offices of a consulting firm to examine first, how men construct their identities as spouses in relation to their wives’ work arrangements and second, how men navigate straying from the male breadwinner identity. While some men interpreted their wives’ work in ways that supported personal claims on the breadwinner identity, others did so in ways that supported a more egalitarian identity, labelled here breadsharer. These groups differed in how they interpreted the social status and financial value of their wives’ work, as well as in how they approached their own careers. Breadsharers were aware they strayed from the expected breadwinner identity and crafted alternative claims on status. These findings advance theory on gender, work, family and masculinity.