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Will More Female Breadwinners Mean More Female Entrepreneurs?


A recent Pew Center analysis found that 40 percent of households with children under the age of 18 have a female breadwinner, either as the sole salary earner or as the partner who earned more. Elaine Pofeldt of argues that this could create a boom in female entrepreneurship.

“While there may have been a massive change in women’s role as earners, what hasn’t changed is that women in married couples still tackle the lion’s share of household responsibilities,” Pofeldt writes. “Interestingly, the researchers found that when women earn more, they also tend to do more work around the house … The upshot: Women may be earning more, but they’re squeezed from all sides by demands on their time.”

A recent New York Times article backs up this idea, quoting a
working paper from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, which found that couples with higher-earning female spouses reported lower rates in marital happiness and higher rates of divorce, in part because female breadwinners tend to take on a larger share of housework, perhaps to “make up” for making more money.

The paper’s authors wrote:

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“Our analysis of the time use data suggests that gender identity considerations may lead a woman who seems threatening to her husband because she earns more than he does to engage in a larger share of home production activities, particularly household chores.”

Pofeldt also points out that American workplaces aren’t adapting to the changing landscape. A woman who is the primary breadwinner but also the primary caregiver finds herself in a difficult spot: if she can’t stay until 8 p.m. every night, she might find herself “mommy-tracked” out of her career, but if stays until 8, she won’t be able to take care of her ever-growing responsibilities on the home front.

Entrepreneurship provides an obvious answer. Already accustomed to doing it all with very little time and resources, female breadwinners are uniquely positioned to take advantage of the flexibility of working for themselves, while still channeling enough energy into their work to make it a success.

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(Photo Credit: Jennifer Kumar/Flickr)

Jen Hubley Luckwaldt
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