A Big Hand From The Little Lady?

Two-earner households may rake in more income--but the husband in such a union pays a price. A new study finds that top male managers in dual-income families earned 20% less over five years than those with homebound wives. Why? To researchers Linda Stroh of Loyola University Chicago and Jeanne Brett of Northwestern, it's "corporate prejudice" against guys with employed spouses.

Their reasoning: The two groups of men are the same in every way, so tradition-minded bias is the logical culprit. In their survey of 348 top male managers at big corporations, the subjects were all in their late 30s, with comparable credentials, tenure, and job commitment. The traditional types, for instance, worked only slightly longer hours: an average of 53 hours weekly vs. 51. The men studied all had been transferred, so it's not as if someone's wife stopped him from making an important move for the sake of her career. Stroh says the results "should be sending a message" to Corporate America to get with it.

Perhaps. But Stroh and Brett didn't study wives. And they admit they didn't examine whether a nonworking wife serves as a resource for her husband. Phyllis Schlafly, a leading advocate of traditional family values, says the data show a stay-at-home "wife is a big asset to a man" by relieving him of housework and child-care distractions. In any case, such a wife is a dwindling asset: Only 16% of U.S. families with kids now fit the Ozzie-and-Harriet stereotype.

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