There’s a lot of data out there having to do with income inequality and the wage gap, but where does earning potential fall within the boundaries of a traditional marriage? Apparently, we’re still a bit behind in catching up with the fact that women are increasingly becoming breadwinners in society and family dynamics.

According to research from University of Bath, husbands become more and more stressed when wives earn in excess of 40% of household income. They are the most stressed when they depend on their partner for household income.

The study was conducted over a 15-year period, following 6,000 American heterosexual couples. Interestingly, husbands’ stress reduced when wives added to the household income up to 40% of the income. Once that point surpassed, husbands became increasingly stressed.

Dr. Joanna Syrda, an economist at the University of Bath’s School of Management, said, “These findings suggest that social norms about male breadwinning — and traditional conventions about men earning more than their wives — can be dangerous for men’s health. They also show how strong and persistent are gender identity norms.”

“This is a large study but of a specific group — other conventions apply in other groups and societies and the results may change as times move on. However, the results are strong enough to point to the persistence of gender identity norms, and to their part in male mental health issues. Persistent distress can lead to many adverse health problems, including physical illness, and mental, emotional and social problems,” she said.

She also pointed out that this stress was not affected if their wife was earning more before marriage. It only affected the dynamics and marriage after the wife became a higher earner in the duration of the marriage.

As more women enter the higher-earning workforce, we’ll undoubtedly see these trends shift in the marriage dynamic. Since 1980, higher earning women in marriage grew from 13% to 33% by 2017.

“The consequences of traditional gender role reversals in marriages associated with wives’ higher earnings span multiple dimensions, including physical and mental health, life satisfaction, marital fidelity, divorce, and marital bargaining power,” Dr Syrda said.

University of Bath. “Husbands’ stress increases if wives earn more than 40% of household income: Study of US data shows persistent social norms about male breadwinning can harm men’s mental health.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 19 November 2019.