December 3, 2007 / 8:35 PM / 10 years ago

Couples still view husband's career as more important

NEW YORK (Reuters) -When Regina Strauss’ husband’s engineering job took him to Toulouse, France, she went with him even though it meant giving up her own career as a journalist.

Her story is not unusual. According to a new study couples are more likely to move for the husband’s career even if the wife has a high-flying job.

The researchers found that when couples relocate, the man’s career tends to get a boost, while the wife’s suffers.

“With so many more dual-earning couples nowadays, more people are facing the situation where they have to decide whose career is more important,” Mary Noonan at the University of Iowa said in an interview.

And most decide that the husband’s career is the priority, showing traditional gender roles are still entrenched, Noonan and co-researcher Kimberly Shauman at the University of California at Davis found.

Noonan and Shauman analyzed the experiences of more than 4,000 working men and women between the ages of 25 and 59 all of whom were married.

The men who relocated for their jobs earned on average of $3,000 more in the first year, compared to an average increase of only $700 for those that didn‘t. But women actually earned less than they would have if they had stayed put and were also less likely to remain employed.

“Our results support the notion that families migrate to enhance husbands’ careers,” said Noonan. “Women are more likely to be the ‘trailing spouse’, following their husbands in a move for his promotion or raise.”

Sociologists have speculated that the types of jobs men and women hold may be part of the reason, with men likely to choose more specialized or in-demand jobs that have a steeper salary ladder.

But Shauman and Noonan’s research, published in the journal Social Forces, shows that even when the playing field is leveled with regard to the type of job, when a couple relocates it still hurt women.

“Even if you’re a female CEO, you’re also facing negative consequences after the move,” she said. “That shows us that couples don’t move to promote the women’s career, as otherwise women would be seeing the same benefits as the men.”

“People still buy into the stereotypes of what it means to be a good wife. It means that caring for your children and supporting your husband’s career is viewed as a wife’s main priority,” she said.

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