Spousal Relative Income and Male Psychological Distress

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Using Panel Study of Income Dynamics 2001-2015 dataset (6,035 households, 19,688 observations), this study takes a new approach to investigating the relationship between wife’s relative income and husband’s psychological distress, and finds it to be significantly U-shaped. Controlling for total household income, predicted male psychological distress reaches a minimum at a point where wives make 40% of total household income and proceeds to increase, to reach highest level when men are entirely economically dependent on their wives. These results reflect the stress associated with being the sole breadwinner, and more significantly, with gender norm deviance due to husbands being outearned by their wives. Interestingly, the relationship between wife’s relative income and husband’s psychological distress is not found among couples where wives outearned husbands at the beginning of their marriage pointing to importance of marital selection. Finally, patterns reported by wives are not as pronouncedly U-shaped as those reported by husbands.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)976-992
Number of pages17
JournalPersonality and Social Psychology Bulletin
Issue number6
Early online date28 Oct 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2020


  • gender
  • male psychological distress
  • marriage
  • panel data estimation
  • spousal relative income
  • Sustainability
  • gender equality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology


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