The quiet struggle of male breadwinners

From The Washington Post:

Since they surged into the U.S. labor force, quadrupling in number since 1970, female breadwinners have lived under a cultural microscope. Can they have it all — the spouse, the baby, the corner office?

Christin Munsch, a sociology professor at the University of Connecticut, said this puzzle is outdated and, frankly, exclusive. She wanted to understand what life is like for heterosexual men who juggle work and family.

So, she looked at 14 years of data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, which seeks to gauge the well-being of young adults nationwide. About 3,100 respondents, ages 18 to 32, took the survey on the last day of 1996 and answered the same questions every year until 2011.

Munsch noticed a startling gender divide: Men who took on larger shares of household income had lower physical and mental health scores. Both men and women, it turned out, were happier when women made most of the money.

The findings defy conventional wisdom. Married men traditionally assumed the role of breadwinner, right?

“Gendered expectations often pull people into making different career decisions,” said Munsch, who studies the psychology of masculinity. “Men are more likely to blindly take on responsibilities with work because they’re associated with more income. Women are more likely to ask: Do I like this? Do I want to do this?”

Of course, this research largely applies to couples with the luxury of choice. Though cultural norms of the ’60s, for example, depicted men as the financial head of the household, poorer families relied on two incomes to survive long before Sheryl Sandberg started advising women to “lean in”.

The national survey asked participants how frequently during the past month they felt nervous, calm and peaceful, downhearted and blue, …

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