In Wisconsin and elsewhere, women are earning more than their spouses at a greater rate than in the past. Nationally, women earn at least the same income as their spouses in nearly 38% of marriages. The change in the traditional breadwinner scenario is not a problem for most marriages in which it occurs, but for others, when the wife out-earns her husband, marital discord can ensue.
In a recent survey of more than 6,000 married couples, the risk of divorce can be a third higher when the wife makes more than her husband. One factor that may cause a higher divorce risk is found in traditional views of support, according to the study. Most people in society view the husband as the primary means of support. When he is not, peer pressure and internal resentment can follow. One 2017 report concluded that society continues to place a higher value of the male as the primary source of financial support for the marriage.
Another study used U.S. Census data, studying couples over a 17-year period, and came up with slightly different results. It found that couples with relatively equal incomes were more likely to remain together. It also found that if couples are able to achieve a threshold lifestyle with the comforts they both desire, they are more likely to marry or stay married. However, it often takes two incomes to achieve the desired lifestyle.
Statistics often provide risk factors for a potential divorce, but each case is different. In the end, the parties in the marriage determine whether they wish to stay married or end the relationship. For a spouse who has determined that divorce is the only option, meeting with a family law attorney may help the individual work out the best possible financial settlement upon dissolution of the marriage.