Vanessa Gash and Anke C. Plagnol. "The partner pay gap – Associations between spouses' relative earnings and life satisfaction among couples in the UK". Work, Employment and Society (in press). (open access)
Despite women’s recent gains in education and employment, husbands still tend to out-earn their wives. This article examines the relationship between the partner pay gap, i.e. the difference in earned income between married, co-resident partners, and life satisfaction. Contrary to previous studies, we investigate the effects of recent changes in relative earnings within couples as well as labour market transitions. Using several waves of the UK Household Longitudinal Study, we reveal that men exhibit an increase in life satisfaction in response to a recent increase in their proportional earnings relative to their wives’ earnings. For women, changes in proportional earnings had no effect on life satisfaction. We also find secondary-earning husbands report lower average life satisfaction than majority-earning and equal-earning men, while such differences were not found for women. The analysis offers compelling evidence of the ongoing role of gendered norms in the sustenance of the partner pay gap.