By Roland S. Martin
Shortly after I graduated from college in 1991 a fraternity brother of mine asked me how I could be happy that the woman I was engaged to marry was making more money than me.
“Easy,” I said. “When she gets a raise, I get a raise. When I get a raise, she gets a raise.”
For him, he just couldn’t fathom the idea of living in a house where his wife made more than him.
Frankly, I think this is the stupidest position any man could take. If marriage is supposed to be about we, us and our, who cares who makes more? One marriage, one house, one bed, one bank account.
Works for me!
This recently came to mind when Pew released a report this week showing that in 4 out of 10 households, the woman is the sole or primary breadwinner. In 1960, it was just 11%.
The news sent some men off of a cliff, bemoaning our society breaking down and the world as we know it coming to an end. But what is necessary is to go inside the study, and what you’ll discover is that it’s not necessarily a bad thing.
According to Pew, 5.1 million female breadwinners are married, and another 8.6 million women bringing home the most in pay are single.
In the married households, their median income was $80,000, and in single households, it was $23,000.
If you’re married and make more than your husband, you’re likely to be older and white and college educated; if you’re single, you’re likely Black or Hispanic, and not to have a college degree.
In order to discuss this study, it’s wrong for anyone to say it’s all good or all bad. That just makes no sense.
Let’s deal with the good.
As I said earlier, if you’re married, who cares who is bringing home the most money? Too many men – and a number of women – are locked into the old view that the man’s job is to bring home the money, and the woman’s job is to play a secondary role.
Sorry, folks. That has gone out of the window, especially since the early 70s when women hit the workforce in greater numbers, and that has not slowed down. We are seeing women rise to great heights, and there is nothing wrong with that.
Paula Madison, a now-retired television executive, has shared publicly the decision she and her husband made regarding their careers. She was a rising news executive in Houston and he was a makeup artist. At the time, he was making more money. But they did something any smart couple should do: they talked it out.
“As time went by and the opportunity came to move for [my] career, we sat down and had a conversation about whose career was likely to generate the greatest income,” Madison told Ebony Magazine in a July 2010 Q and A. “We concluded it was mine and it wasn’t that he stopped working, it was that we would move for mine if we needed to and we did.”
When she became news director in New York, they left Houston for greener pastures. Paula later became general manager in Los Angeles, and they packed up again. As she kept getting promoted, eventually rising to become chief diversity officer for NBCUniversal, she and Roosevelt stuck to the plan. At 58 she retired, and along with her brother and husband, own the Africa Channel, a cable network, the Los Angeles Sparks WNBA team, and numerous other investments.
Had Roosevelt been a bullheaded man, he could have stunted their financial growth as a couple. Or, due to the friction, they likely would have ended up divorced. But instead, these two made a wise choice and are bearing the fruits of that decision.
That’s what smart people should do. We shouldn’t be stuck in the dark ages and say, “Woman, I’ll go hunt and you cook it when I return.” Please!
We are living in a world today where roles get reversed. What if a couple decides that the husband should stay home to raise the kids? Is that a bad idea? No. If he is capable of doing so, it makes sense financially, and the two agree, then go for it.
What we should be troubled about in the Pew poll is the fact that more single women have to carry their families financially by themselves.
This is a lot different from women out there who are making good money and have made the decision to raise a child. I have a friend who is single but wanted to adopt a child. She is making $250,000 a year, and wasn’t going to wait until she was married to have a child. In her case, she’s making the kind of money where it’s much easier to raise a child as a single mother. She has greater choices than a single mother with no college degree making a median income of $23,000.
When we study the various stats, we know that a child raised in a two-parent home has a better shot in life than someone coming from a single-parent home. This doesn’t mean children from single-parent homes are doomed to failure – and it doesn’t mean a child in a two-parent home is destined to be a CEO – but earning $23,000 puts an extraordinary amount of pressure on a single mother to make ends meet. She won’t have the same options for tutoring, daycare and other needs for her child. When it’s time to enter college, she likely won’t have built up the resources to pay for school.
It is of great concern in this country to see so many men abandon their responsibility. The woman was good enough to have sex with, but when it’s time for the child to be born, they cut and run, leaving the woman with the sole responsibility of raising a child. These men aren’t paying child support, and if they do, many of them likely don’t have the higher education to earn a larger salary to sufficiently take care of a child.
As a result, this puts a tremendous amount of pressure on the woman’s extended family to assist in raising the children, which cuts into their ability to build wealth (I know this personally).
This also taxes social service agencies because at that income level, the single mother will likely have to depend on assistance, whether it’s healthcare, food stamps or other forms of government aid.
Instead of freaking out and thinking that the world is being turned upside down, what we should be doing, especially men, is calling on other men to stop abandoning their children and leave it up to women to raise them alone. That single mom can be the greatest and hardest-working woman in the world, but doing it alone can be difficult, especially if she is limited a low-paying job with little chance of going up the economic ladder. In essence, she’ll likely be stuck where she is for a long, long time.
Lastly, we better get used to the idea of college-educated women making more than men. Many of them are pursuing careers that are high paying, and they are not slowing down in order to hold on to an old worldview.
So ladies, feel free to keep getting paid. If you say, “Lunch is on me,” I’ll be the first to give you a high five!