The present study builds on the explanatory power of the “doing gender” perspective to understand the effects of family economic structure on the family and career satisfaction of husbands and wives. Using data from a two-panel, couple-level survey of full-time employed middle-class families in the Northeastern United States, we find that when wives’ earnings increase relative to their husbands’, their career satisfaction significantly increases whereas their husbands’ is significantly depressed. In contrast, family economic structure has little effect on women’ and men’s level of family satisfaction, although we find a significant reduction in family satisfaction among couples who have recently shifted towards a more equal-earner economic structure. Our findings underscore the importance of considering both husbands’ and wives’ attitudes towards work and career in understanding how “gender is done” in couples, and in addressing the resulting family and work relations and dynamics. Focusing on the disjuncture between longstanding gender norms and current employment and earning patterns, we highlight the potential impact of these findings for couples, counselors, and organizations.
Available for download on Monday, May 01, 2017