Working dads gripped by breadwinner stereotype

Working dads are happier when they earn more than their partner according to University of London boffins

Gender Pay Gap, Wage Inequality


The breadwinner stereotype still has an iron grip on men according to new research. Boffins at City University of London found that men are happier when they earn more than their partners. And when men earn less than their partners they are likely to report less life satisfaction.

They dubbed this effect the Partner Pay Gap. The researchers warned it entrenches gender stereotypes at home and at the workplace.

Role models

The findings suggest that men who give up the breadwinner role face high barriers. But also that those that do break free from the stereotype ought to be lauded and could be powerful role models.

The research drew on the findings of the UK Longitudinal Study, a huge research project stretching over many years. It found

  • Men exhibit an increase in life satisfaction in response to a recent increase in their proportional earnings relative to their wives’ earnings
  • For women, changes in proportional earnings had no effect on life satisfaction
  • Secondary-earning husbands report lower average life satisfaction than majority-earning and equal-earning men, while such differences were not found for women

Psychological dividend

Many men earn a ‘psychological dividend’ from recent increases in proportional household earnings. However they suffer a ‘psychological penalty’ when they are out-earned by their female partners. The researchers warn that the partner pay gap may actually be increasing. And this could entrench gender norms further making it harder for men and women to achieve the work life balance and family set up they want.

Lead author Dr Vanessa Gash, Deputy Head of City’s Department of Sociology, said: “These findings suggest that the partner pay gap is reinforced or supported by male breadwinning norms. This tendency was robust to multiple tests, and alternative specifications. It is a finding based on statistically representative data for the UK as a whole. Policy agendas which seek progressive change towards equality between the sexes need to clearly recognise divergent tendencies by sex in labour market behaviour.”

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