The gender-gap reversal in education could have far-reaching consequences for marriage and family lives in the United States. This study seeks to address the following question: As women increasingly marry men with less education than they have themselves, is the traditional male breadwinner model in marriage challenged?
This study takes a life course approach to examine how educational assortative mating shapes trajectories of change in female breadwinning status over the course of marriage. It uses group-based trajectory models to analyze data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979.
The results reveal substantial movement by wives in and out of the primary breadwinner role across marital years and great heterogeneity in female breadwinning trajectories across couples. In addition, educational assortative mating plays a role in shaping female breadwinning trajectories: Compared with wives married to men whose educational levels equal or exceed their own, wives married to men with less education than themselves are more likely to have a continuously high probability of being primary earners and are also more likely to gradually or rapidly transition into primary earners if initially they are not.
This study examines couples’ breadwinning arrangements over an extended period of time and identifies qualitatively distinct patterns of change in female breadwinning that are not readily identifiable using ad hoc, ex ante classification rules. The findings suggest that future research on the economics of marriage and couple relations in families would benefit from a life course approach to conceptualizing couples’ dynamic divisions of breadwinning.
Qian, Y. (2017), "Educational Assortative Mating and Female Breadwinning Trajectories: A Group-Based Trajectory Analysis", Intimate Relationships and Social Change (Contemporary Perspectives in Family Research, Vol. 11), Emerald Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 95-123. https://doi.org/10.1108/S1530-353520170000011005
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