Husbands get a 'kick' if they earn more than their wives, study finds

Telegraph reporters
·2-min read
Men prefer to earn more than their wives, according to researchers
Men prefer to earn more than their wives, according to researchers

While modern men may think they are all for equal pay, research suggests husbands still like to be in the driving seat when it comes to being the breadwinner.

Scientists claim to have unearthed evidence that shows how men get a psychological boost if the pay gap widens between them and their spouses.

However researchers could find no evidence of a similar trait existing for women suggesting the ego boost is an exclusively male phenomenon.

The study, which was carried out by sociologists at City University in London, identified how men often feel a "psychological kick" in life satisfaction when they overtake their wife in terms of earnings.

Vanessa Gash, who co-authored the study, analysed data from the UK Household Longitudinal Study for eight years between 2009 and 2017.

The findings reveal attitudes to pay and show how the gap in salaries between partners can affect wellbeing.

Analysis of the data suggested that husbands who earned the same or more than their wives had a dissatisfaction rate of 11 per cent, while those who earned less had a dissatisfaction rate of 18 per cent.

A recent similar study by researchers at the University of Bath found that while husbands found being the main breadwinner stressful, their stress increased if their wives earned more than 40 per cent of the household income.

The study also found that men were most stressed when they were entirely economically dependent on their wives or partners.

Ms Gash said: "Men appear to need to be the bigger earners in a marriage to feel good about themselves. There is no equivalent feeling for women so it's a male specific phenomenon."

While scientists were unable to find a similar trend among female respondents, there is evidence showing how women remain deeply unhappy about disparity in salaries in the workplace.

Despite recent strides to bridge the gender pay gap, data still tends to show that women earn less, and are more likely to occupy less well-paid roles than men, even if working in the same sector. 

Women are also more likely to be in lower-paid jobs, which offer lower wages than those for men, even if the same level of education and experience is required.

Sam Smethers, chief executive of the Fawcett Society, which campaigns for gender equality, said: "One thing we know from our own research is that if women discover they are underpaid compared with their male counterparts at work, that has a devastating effect on their well being."