Career-Prioritizing in Dual Earner Couples


  • Joy E. Pixley

Document type: Encyclopedia Entry

Appears in: Work and Family Encyclopedia

Year: 2008


  • Career(s)
  • Gender
  • Roles
  • Women


  • Sociology


A great deal of work on gender inequality in work outcomes has focused on individual differences in men’s and women’s occupational investments and time spent on housework and childcare. A smaller but also important body of research examines how having a working spouse affects men’s and women’s occupational outcomes. With the increase in dual-earner couples, some researchers have focused on whether having a working wife has a negative effect on men’s income (Hotchkiss & Moore, 1999; Jacobsen & Rayack, 1996); much of this research takes for granted that the husband’s career is primary. However, as more wives are earning half or more of the household income, questions of career prioritizing — or how couples prioritize spouses’ two careers — have become more relevant (Pixley & Moen, 2003; Winkler, McBride, & Andrews, 2005). Despite advances in removing barriers for women in the workplace, married women who are secondary earners may find that their husbands’ careers act as a type of “glass ceiling” at home, constraining their own options (Philliber & Vannoy-Hiller, 1990). Spousal constraints may be especially problematic for women in professional and managerial occupations, who not only face high expectations for commitment at work and are more likely than their male peers to have a working spouse, but are more often married to someone who also has a high-status occupation (Jacobs & Winslow, 2004; Sobecks et al., 1999). Even so, having to negotiate the often conflicting needs of two work careers can affect men and women in all types of dual-earner couples.

Link: Career-Prioritizing encyclopedia