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Married Dads Whose Wives Don’t Work Make More Money

Want to earn more dough? Arrange to be a man, get married to a woman, have a kid -- and then ask your wife to stay home. According to a paper in American Sociological Review, you'll be making bank in no time. (If bank is defined as 4 percent more money, which in the post-recession age, it kind of is.)

Want to earn more dough? Arrange to be a man, get married to a woman, have a kid — and then ask your wife to stay home. According to a paper in American Sociological Review, you’ll be making bank in no time. (If bank is defined as 4 percent more money, which in the post-recession age, it kind of is.)

The paper, called “A Reconsideration of the Fatherhood Premium: Marriage, Coresidence, Biology, and the Wages of Fathers,” examined 30-plus years of data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, and found that married fathers who live with their biological children and have wives who don’t work — or who work less than full-time — made 4 percent more than other fathers, including dads who don’t live with their kids, dads whose kids aren’t biologically theirs (e.g. stepchildren), and dads whose wives worked as much as they did.

The difference could be attributed to several factors:

1. More pressure.

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Author Alexandra Killewald tells Alexis Coe of The Atlantic that married dads may work harder, because they feel that their family’s well-being hinges on their success.

“Families who are committed to having a mom who stays at home with a kid may make the man feel even more pressure to provide as a father and husband,” says Killewald.

2. More time.

Interestingly, the research did not find that these dads spent less time at home, as you might expect of the sole wage earner. Instead, dads who enjoyed this “fatherhood premium” reported spending more time with their kids than other dads.

3. Higher rewards for “doing what they’re supposed to do.”

Fathers who fit the nuclear family mold may receive unconscious goodwill from their employers — or at least, the absence of punishment suffered by dads who don’t adhere to the Norman Rockwell picture of fatherhood. However, Killewald told Coe that “more research on employer discrimination against men who violate the normative expectations is still needed” before she would conclude that this is definitely a factor.

Of course, none of this data makes a difference if you are a single parent, a parent in a same-sex relationship, or a parent in a relationship in which both partners are able to and want to work. (Not to mention the fact that two working spouses adds up to a lot more cash than one working spouse making 4 percent more per year.) But if you’re looking for an explanation for the raises Dad had gotten since he became the sole breadwinner, the answer is hard work, luck — and possibly some of the above factors.

Tell Us What You Think

Have you seen evidence of the fatherhood premium? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

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(Photo Credit: Seattle Municipal Archives/Flickr)

Jen Hubley Luckwaldt
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8 Comments on "Married Dads Whose Wives Don’t Work Make More Money"

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My experience in corporate life was that the sales guys who had stay-at-home wives had more support so that they could better focus and work longer hours and/or travel more.  Unlike working moms they didn’t have to straddle work and home the same way.  As a woman, I always said I wished that I had a stay-at-home wife just to level the playing field!  All the more power to them but it does make it tough for a working mom to compete.  I eventually left to stay home and work part-time.  Since then my husband has more pressure and has ponied up to… Read more »

This is total B.S. The increased amount of income the father would make (as CLAIMED HERE) would not match the amount of income the wife would bring in if she were working. My wife makes about $55k a year, are you saying if she were a stay at home mother, MY income would rise an additional $55k to make up for our loss of HER income? ridiculous, it would not!!

I work in corporate America, and this is common sense to me because most of the men who work here have wives that stay home. It allows the men to focus on their jobs more, since they don’t have to worry about what’s going on at home. Mom takes care of everything and has dinner on the table when they get home (and can go to the dr’s appointments, teacher appointments, etc.), and Dad gets to focus on work. It seems to work well! (I was a stay home mom for 11 years & loved it — worked well for us,… Read more »

These kind of stats and the way this story is written is misleading.    It’s not that having a stay at home wife allows you to make more money — it’s that making a little more money makes it possible for wives who want to — to stay home.    If it were financially possible we’d BOTH be home with the kids, but that’s not realistic.

Proud Homemaker

Been a homemaker/caregiver for 30 years.  Raised 4 children, 3 have completed college.  All are gainfully employed.  We made some difficult financial choices and sacrifices but well worth it.  Sometimes you don’t need that second car, that second tv or multiple computers to survive.  It’s all based on what you are willing to give up and just make the best of what you have until the kids can survive on their own then you can build towards more available money and more time to enjoy as a couple.


This was our situation but I didn’t “ask” my wife to stay home —- it was out of necessity. I worked harder, took less time off and made more money for the company because I had to. I didn’t receive any “unconscious goodwill” — far from it. I did what I had to do and it was decades of stress. Failure was not an option. Two income families being the norm, our one income had to compete with two to have a good standard of living. I felt the only way to do that was to work my fanny off.


Correlation doesn’t mean causation. Stats 101 teaches you that.  Did it occur that the wives of dads making less money  money feel more pressure to work outside the home while those whose husbands make more feel more able to stay home with their children?The talk about discrimination is laughable. There is an enormous amount of social pressure in the other direction. Just look at the description of the stay at home mom as “wives who don’t work”. In other words, housekeeping and childrearing isn’t real work. Talk about discrimination!

Always be careful about correlations.  You could report that married dads with higher income are more likely to be able to live in a “traditional family.”   We also need to know if there was a change over time.  Is this condition no longer true if we focus on the data from the last 20 or 15 years?  is there a common factor that we are missing.  Are you comparing like groups of fathers?  You know that traditional fathers in Southern Africa earn far less than American Deadbeat Dads tend to do.   In other words: This is only the… Read more »
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