Husbands are unhappy when their wives earn more than them and they get a ‘psychological kick’ if a pay rise increases salary superiority within their marriage, research reveals

  • A new study found the concept of the male breadwinner may still be prevalent
  • Men get an ego boost if they get a pay rise that widens gap between wife’s salary 
  • Husbands who earn less than their wives more likely to report life dissatisfaction 

Husbands are unhappy when their wives earn more than them and they feel a thrill if a pay rise increases salary superiority within their marriage, research reveals.

A new study on the views of income by gender shows that men get a ‘psychological kick’ in life satisfaction if a salary increase widens the gap between theirs and the salary of their lower-paid wives.  

However, it appears to be ‘a male-specific phenomenon’ as women do not experience the same competitive thrill if they receive the pay rise.

A new study by City, University of London found the ideal of the male breadwinner may still be ‘bigger than we give credit for’. Men who earned less than their wives were more likely to report life dissatisfaction (stock image)

The study carried out by researchers at City, University of London found that husbands who earned less than their wives were more likely to report life dissatisfaction (18%). 

Men who earned more or the same amount as their wives were happier, reporting levels of life dissatisfaction more than a third lower (11%) than the other group.

Co-author of the study, Vanessa Gash, a sociologist, believes that the results show the ideal of the male breadwinner may still be ‘bigger than we give credit for’. 

Denise Coates, 53, pictured, the founder of Bet365, was paid a salary of £323m last year – making her the highest earning British chief executive

 Speaking to The Times, Dr Gash said: ‘Men appear to need to be the bigger earners in a marriage to feel good about themselves.

‘There’s no equivalent feeling for women, so it’s a male-specific phenomenon.’  

The research looked at data from the UK Household Longitudinal Study between 2009 and 2017 to study how the ‘partner pay gap’ affected wellbeing. 

A previous study by Dr Gash found that the partner pay gap – the difference in the wages between cohabiting partners – has been a consistent trend since the mid-1990s.

It found that in dual-earning heterosexual couples, women’s contribution to household labour income was between 35-45%. 

However, while the number of women who earn more than their husbands is still relatively small, it is growing.    

Britain’s highest paid chief executive is Denise Coates, 53, the founder of Bet365, who was paid a salary of £323m last year.   

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