With the very low income, they have to because there’s no room for error and low enough on the income tree, it’s a real financial loss plus massive stressor to have two workers maxing out at 43k or so.
For the very high income (in W2 income terms anyhow), it’s related. If your husband makes 400k, you get the same benefit spending 10 hours a week or even month finding an extra 25k in the budget as you would working a 50k/yr job because you only end up with a little more and you have to work 40 hours a week to get it. You have to crack six figures yourself before the extra money is harder to find via frugality than just working a job for it.
This isn’t to say that frugality is pointless unless you only make under 40k or over 400k, but that at the extreme ends of wage income (as reflected in both extremes having the highest rates of SAHMs), it’s mostly going to be easier to conserve cash rather than earn marginally more cash.
The math is different closer to the median married income, which is partly why the median is rising. The reason is that people who are willing to marry when both incomes are likely to be about even set up their finances differently and as a result losing one income doesn’t create the space to segue into conserving the remaining one.
Of course, another reason the median married income is rising is that if you weren’t taught household management and homemaking skills, which is a very large number of marriageable women these days, it is terrifying to figure out how to get along on a low income and marrying a higher earning man sounds like it will be safer/easier.
Apparently the answer is “20k more than the woman you plan to wife up”.
The gap between married women and married men’s average earnings is about 20k regardless of actual earnings until men are in their 30s, when married men’s average goes up into 40k more than the married women average through their 30s.
So guys who are married in their early 20s average 30k, but girls married in their early 20s average 10k. Mid20s, 50k/30k, respectively. Mid30s, 70k/50k.
Another way to look at it is that single men never boost their earnings out of the range they share with married women (for both single men and married women, average income peaks around 50k/yr through 30s and 40s). Men who want to marry all start out higher earning, even among men who marry by 20.
So the single guys who remain at each stage of average income are the ones who just aren’t making the financial leaps upward. Single women have it even worse, they don’t hit that 50k peak until their 50s, and are down in the 40k range through most of their working years, below married women and single men.
One interesting set of interpretations is that married women on average expect married men to be the ones to take income over benefits and generous leave while they expect to not have to choose and thus don’t. And men who want to marry won’t if they aren’t pretty confident they can decisively earn 60% or more of the household income.
Data reference is from here, covering people who were born in the 1990s as the youngest end of the spectrum.
There was a lot of research done on the Pill when it was first made available to American women on a mass scale in the early 1960s. The big takeaway, relevant since use was primarily restricted to already-married women, is that women on the Pill had a higher “coital frequency” than women not on the Pill and that pre-Pill, women were in fact having less sex with their husbands over time to avoid pregnancy. Marrying young was resulting in not as much sex after the first ten years, due to desire for limiting fertility rather than lack of interest according to separate surveys of husbands and wives.
But once the Pill was introduced, women who went on it had more sex and of course had fewer children. It sure seemed like cake was being had and eaten too. This is particularly interesting given that decades later research on women taking the Pill showed it to be heavily correlated with reduced sex interest in women and lower libido. Thus we have the origin story for the mythical housewife who wasn’t that into it but just trying to keep her man satisfied.
The other thing I just remembered about this is that the Pill was the only contraceptive with a substantial increase in sex-having vs non-Pill users. Sterilizations on either male or female side, condoms, jellies, and the like never showed people utilizing them to have more sex than people avoiding contraceptive use.
For a young (preferably Christian) woman looking to marry and become a mother, it may seem strange that a divorce between the richest man in the world and his wife could offer any useful tools on securing a (hopefully God-fearing), supportive, decent husband. But there are a lot of strange things in the world and Mrs. Former-Bezos offers three valuable lessons for secular women and Christian ones undertaking the difficult quest for a husband in a rough, uncaring world.
- Be where the fish you want to catch are. Mrs. Bezos threw herself into a pool of men who were going to be very big fish financially. The very-near certainty was that this day would come, and her luck or blessing was that it took a little longer than is usual with that kind of man. But make no mistake, she knew she wasn’t swimming in a pond of men offering lifelong devotion. So particularly for young Christian women, you have to go to where the men who want or plan for lifelong marriage are.
- Line up connections that aren’t dependent on your husband. Mrs. Bezos appears to have spent quite a bit of effort as a very young college kid connecting with Toni Morrison. That connection certainly panned out in a lot of big ways for her, allowing her a creative outlet once supporting her husband in his crazy dotcom scheme started to look up and pan out. Which leads to the third lesson.
- Have a creative outlet independent of your husband and your children. Having this means you create the space to maneuver for yourself when you need to. It doesn’t mean it has to come first, but without something for yourself, the risk is always there of collapse when the nest is empty or emptying. Mrs. Bezos’ four children are all teenaged. Her husband giving in to adultery and stupidity could easily have left her in a position to lose it as her kids were also leaving and have a breakdown.
The profile above is where I got the details about her life. For young (Christian) women, the goal is not to have an escape route planned, to the contrary, the goal is to do the best you reasonably can to arrange the conditions for a robust and stable marriage environment.
There are spaces and places where men interested in lifelong marriage are, but due to atomization, it takes more time and effort to place yourself in those spots. But if you do, you’re putting yourself around the kind of men who are already part of the way there as far as marriage goals and views.
Having connections outside your husband is about having safe emotional outlets if your husband is in a busy season or is of a different social nature than you, or both. It’s also about having a broader social and economic network, two people combining their networks is always better than being totally dependent on one person’s connections.
A creative outlet that isn’t husband+kids means you aren’t frustrated when the kids inevitably grow up and out of the home.