Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Earning More and Getting Less

Earning More and Getting Less: Why Successful Wives Can't Buy Equality

Veronica Jaris Tichenor
Copyright Date: 2005
Published by: Rutgers University Press
Pages: 240
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Earning More and Getting Less
    Book Description:

    For nearly two decades the wage gap between men and women has remained virtually unchanged. Women continue to earn, on average, 80 cents for every dollar that men earn. Yet despite persistent discrimination in wages, studies are also beginning to show that a growing number of women are out-earning their husbands. Nationwide, nearly one-third of working women are the chief breadwinners in their families. The trend is particularly pronounced among the demographic of highly educated women. Does this increase in earnings, however, equate to a shift in power dynamics between husbands and wives?In Earning More and Getting Less, sociologist Veronica Jaris Tichenor shows how, historically, men have derived a great deal of power over financial and household decisions by bringing home all (or most) of the family's income. Yet, financial superiority has not been a similar source of power for women. Tichenor demonstrates how wives, instead of using their substantial incomes to negotiate more egalitarian relationships, enable their husbands to perpetuate male dominance within the family.Weaving personal accounts, in-depth interviews, and compelling narrative, this important study reveals disturbing evidence that the conventional power relations defined by gender are powerful enough to undermine hierarchies defined by money. Earning More and Getting Less is essential reading in sociology, psychology, and family and gender studies.

    eISBN: 978-0-8135-3788-7
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xviii)
  5. Chapter 1 Higher-Earning Wives: Swimming against the Tide
    (pp. 1-11)

    Women who make more money than their husbands are a hot topic. They have commanded quite a bit of interest in the national media in the last several years. Articles have appeared in theNew York Times, theBoston Globe,Jet,More, andNewsweek, with such eye-catching headlines as “When the Big Paycheck Is Hers” (Spragins 2002b) and “Why a Wife’s Earnings Can Strain a Marriage” (1999). These articles tap into their audience’s natural curiosity about these unusual couples, playing on both the novelty of the situation and a sense of unease about women who are more successful than their...

  6. Chapter 2 Thinking about Gender and Power in Marriage
    (pp. 12-32)

    Thinking about power within marriage requires examining the gendered assumptions upon which marriage as an institution is built, as well as the difficulties researchers face in trying to conceptualize and measure power within marriage. In this chapter, I examine how power has been routinely conceptualized and measured within marriage, adapt these accepted measures to my work, and offer an alternative conceptualization of power that can illuminate more subtle dynamics in these marriages.

    The balance of power in most marriages reflects the ideology of separate spheres in the conventional marital contract. Of course, this contract is not a written document; it...

  7. Chapter 3 Gendered Bargain: Why Wives Cannot Trade Their Money for Housework
    (pp. 33-67)

    This chapter examines the straightforward bargain implied by the conventional marital contract—that income is exchanged for domestic labor. While we know that employed wives have had little success trading their incomes for a reduction in their domestic labor burden, it is tempting to think that wives with substantially greater incomes could use their resources to negotiate a better deal. As the primary bread-winners, they may be able to buy out of a greater proportion of housework than can wives who are secondary earners.

    The data presented here are based on reports by husbands and wives from the questionnaires and...

  8. Chapter 4 Dollar Rich and Power Poor: Why Wives Do Not Control the Money
    (pp. 68-89)

    This chapter assesses whether earning the bulk of the family’s money translates neatly into controlling that money. This equation has worked for men; being the sole or major breadwinner has been used to legitimate men’s greater control over the marital purse. But is this financial privilege available to higher-earning wives?

    The ability to control the family’s financial resources has long been thought to reflect one’s power within marriage. As the sole breadwinners, men have typically been able to dictate how financial resources should be spent, act as gatekeepers, and control other family members’ access to their income (Hertz 1986). Some...

  9. Chapter 5 Calling the Shots: Why Wives Have Limited Decision-Making Power
    (pp. 90-117)

    Earning substantially more money has not helped women bargain successfully for greater equity in the division of domestic labor, or given them greater control over the family’s finances. In fact, the results of the previous chapters speak forcefully for the ability of conventional gendered expectations to disrupt the link between money and power as couples divide household chores and negotiate control over the family purse. This chapter examines the third standard indicator of marital power by exploring whether these wives’ income advantage translates into more influence in decision making within their relationships.

    Decision making has been the most obvious and...

  10. Chapter 6 Negotiating Identity and Power
    (pp. 118-148)

    The three previous chapters, which examined the straightforward bargain implied by the conventional marital contract, show that higher-earning wives are unable to get the same deal for their incomes that men have historically enjoyed. That is, their money does not buy them substantial relief from domestic labor or greater control over the family finances or other decisions. Instead of using income earned to determine the balance of power, spouses interact in ways that reproduce men’s privilege and dominance in marriage. This chapter takes a closer look at these interactions, as well as at how attempts to construct appropriate gender identities...

  11. Chapter 7 Are They Happy? Managing Tensions and Disappointments
    (pp. 149-177)

    That couples work to preserve the gender boundaries of mothering and breadwinning does not mean that they are blind to the status and income differences between them, or that these differences do not generate a great deal of tension in these relationships. While husbands may find ways to see themselves as providers, they are still well aware that they are lesser providers vis-à-vis their wives. This awareness creates dissatisfaction that the couple must manage to ensure both the happiness of the spouses and the longevity of the relationship.

    This chapter examines how couples assess their relationships, paying special attention to...

  12. Chapter 8 Floating Along for the Ride? Higher-Earning Wives and the Prospects for Gender Change
    (pp. 178-192)

    While couples with higher-earning wives seem to be moving against the cultural tide, they are not making waves. Though these wives hold tremendous resource advantages over their husbands, they are unable or unwilling to use their incomes to negotiate more egalitarian power relationships in their marriages and therefore do not seem to present a serious challenge to the gender structure. In this final chapter, I highlight the central findings of this study and explore what these couples can tell us about gender and the power dynamics within marriage.

    I also consider what these results can tell us about the prospects...

  13. Appendix A. Questionnaire
    (pp. 193-196)
  14. Appendix B. Interview Guide
    (pp. 197-202)
  15. Appendix C. Strategies for Data Analysis
    (pp. 203-204)
  16. Bibliography
    (pp. 205-212)
  17. Index
    (pp. 213-218)
  18. Back Matter
    (pp. 219-220)