In situations where women earn more, the likelihood of divorce rises. We know that it's more often the women who want out. However, we do not know which comes first: Does the fact that women are earning more make them think they can find a better life outside their marriage? Or do unhappy women seek to earn more as a way to escape a bad situation? This is a very important distinction. But either way, the paradigm shift raises a crucial question: How do you find a safe place that allows you to get rich and stay married? Or, if you're single, a place that allows you to build a secure and loving relationship with a partner in the future?
Marriage Changes Everything
Researchers have seen a marked difference between people who live together and people who are married. When people are "just" living together, they still operate as two independent souls who happen to reside under one roof. But when they marry, they start carrying the cultural weight that for generations has come along with being husbands or wives, and their behavior changes accordingly.
Interestingly, the more financial independence a woman has the less eager she is to get married. Working women are 50 percent more likely to move in with a partner and 15 percent less likely to marry than women who don't work steadily, according to research from Cornell University. By contrast, the more financially independent men are, the more likely they are to want to put a ring on some woman's finger. Men who earn an above-average salary are 26 percent more likely to get married than those who earn an average one. Again, that's tradition talking.
Trouble is, all traditions—and the way we feel about them—are on very shaky ground these days. That's because the world of earnings is changing. And it's doing so very quickly. In 2000, 22 percent of women earned more than their spouses. In 2006, it's 30 percent (some researchers say it's even higher), which means the needle moved by 8 percentage points in only six years. Experts who look at educational trends—the fact that more women than men are now applying to college and to many graduate schools—believe that by 2030 the average woman will earn more than the average man.