Sunday, April 22, 2012

Money, Relationships, and Power

The March 26, 2012 issue of Time magazine had an interesting article with fresh statistics on changes that have been occuring for women, men, and the balance of power in close relationships.
For example, 40% of working women make more than their partner does. In our children's generation, more families may be supported by women than men. Many men have been displaced from the workplace or are under-employed through the last few years of downturn in our global economy. Some careers have been permanently dismantled as industries change.
Here are some of the other trends:
  • In dual-earner couples,women contributed an average of 44% of family income in 2008, up from 39% in 1997.
  • Women out-earn men in part-time work, but men still earn more on an hourly basis in full-time work.
  • Less than 1 in 5 married couples are supported by the husband alone.
  • The percentage of children born to unmarried mothers has increased from 5% in 1960 to 41% in 2010.
  • Women work more paid hours than ever, up from .6 hrs per week in 1965 to 22.2 hours per week in 2010.
  • Most men do more to help at home than they did in the past. Men have about tripled the weekly time contributions they make to housework (up from .5 hours in 1960 to 2 hours a week in 2010), child care (up from 2.6 hours a week to 6.4 hours), and food prep and cleanup (up from .9 hours per week to 2.7 hours a week).
Women's increased earning power gives them more economic influence, at home and in the marketplace. A study by Pew Research Center found that when the husband brings in more income, buying decisions are made equally most often.When the wife earns greater income, she typically makes twice as many buying decisions as the man.
More households are headed by successful single women.Women's increased earning power steps up their confidence in asking for what they want and negotiating factors in relationships along new non-traditional lines. There are more unmarried couples living together and negotiating tasks and roles.
Earning power seems to make women more desireable. A 2001 study by University of Texas at Austin psychology professor David Buss and his colleagues found that from 1950 to 2000, there was a huge shift in how much weight men gave to a partner's earning power, relative to domestic skills.
Economic trends often require changes in society and relationships. In our lives, and certainly in our children and grandchildren's lives to come, these changes will impact their lives and choices. Girls need to prepare to have the training for a career so they have their own base of power from which to negotiate. Both girls and boys need to learn to participate fully in caring for children, sharing household tasks, managing money, and making decisions. No damsels in distress needed, better to help our damsels aim for success, instead. Earning more shouldn't give either partner the ability to dominate decision making or hold all the power. Mutual respect is still the key, and valuing each partner's contributions, whether at home, or in the marketplace.

In an upcoming book by Liza Mundy, called The Richer Sex,will be published in 2012 by Simon and Schuster, and go more in depth about some of the trends featured here and in the Time article.
In the future, money, decision-making power, and task assignments won't be able to be made only on gender assignment. None of these topics can be taboo before partners plan a life together. Instead of role assignments, perhaps we can shift to roles that are shared, or are preferred by the individuals involved, or with consideration for maximizing family earning power. Parenting will be more of a shared hands-on task in two-parent families. More children will be raised in single parent families.
Our world is changing, and our task is to adjust to it, and welcome less rigid roles to play as we partner, live, raise children, and create balance between work and family life.You know what this means: less assumptions, and more discussion about who does what, and how we create a life together. These changes might have a bright side. I always like less assumptions, and more discussion! We can't use the template of earlier generations in gender roles, family responsiblities, handling money, decision-making, and the distribution of power. It's time to create our own way, and respect the unique, differing gifts that we each bring to relationships and our shared life together.

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