Money Norms

A study finds old stereotypes about money and gender persist

According to a new study from the Census Bureau, old stigmas about money and gender norms are going to die hard. The researchers found that when a husband earned less than his wife, two unexpected things happened: The husband overreported his earnings, and the wife underreported hers.

The Census team used survey responses from its Annual Social and Economic Supplement report to come up with the findings. Men who earned less than their wives reported their earnings were 2.9 percentage points higher than what was recorded in their tax filings. Meanwhile, wives who earned more than than their husbands reported their earnings at 1.5 percentage points lower than what was recorded in their tax forms. An example used by the Census considered a man who earned $30,000 per year, according to his taxes. Yet in his survey answers, he said he earned $30,870. The man’s wife, meanwhile, earned $40,000 a year, but said on the survey that she only took home $39,400.

The Census findings reinforce the old stereotype that men should be the “breadwinner” and if they’re not, it says something negative about their masculinity. It shows how truly long we have to go as a society before this thought process disappears. And the fudging of the numbers? Well, it perpetuates the problem. “Wage and earnings data underlie a majority of federal statistics on income, inequality and poverty, and are critical for understanding the pulse of the nation and overall well-being of individuals in society,” Bruce Meyer, an economist at the Census Bureau, explained in a release.

Chris O'Shea

Chris O'Shea