Feature

Book of the week: The Richer Sex: How the New Majority of Female Breadwinners Is Transforming Sex, Love, and Family by Liza Mundy

Women are poised to become the biggest breadwinners in most dual-earner households.

(Simon & Schuster, $27)

Your reign is up, men, said Patricia Sellers in Fortune. Women are poised to become the biggest breadwinners in most dual-earner households, and “the tipping point is a generation away.” Evidence of the coming era of female dominance is everywhere, says author Liza Mundy. Nearly 40 percent of working wives already earn more than their husbands. Single, childless women under 30 pocket more than their male counterparts in many U.S. cities. As women earn the larger share of advanced degrees, they’re also nearing total domination of certain professions, such as veterinary medicine, where the new gender imbalance is scaring off male recruits. So what happens when bigger female paychecks are the norm—when women are the “Masters of the Universe”?

They’re going to want some perks, for starters, said Matthew DeLuca in TheDailyBeast.com. Mundy’s survey of professional women suggests that some are already adjusting how they date, targeting men with ambition and drive equal to their own. Other studies suggest that there’s been a trade-off in the relative value that each gender places on wealth and beauty, with working women increasingly valuing looks in a partner and men suddenly more interested in a woman’s earning power. Mundy predicts that working women soon will become more comfortable about forfeiting primary responsibility for household chores and child care, seeing as they’ll feel entitled to shut down after a long workday. “The Leave It to Beaver era” of dapper dads providing for their vacuum-pushing wives is long dead. But as Mundy points out, that image haunts our collective consciousness, generating ongoing anxieties for both sexes.

This certainly isn’t going to be easy for some men, said Jennifer Ludden in NPR.org. One of the stay-at-home dads Mundy profiles quit his job as a car salesman to free his wife to work, but his efforts to raise the couple’s children—and to supplement the household’s income by peddling Avon products—win only open derision from his in-laws. But Mundy is largely an optimist, so The Richer Sex often reads “like a fantastical trip through the looking glass” into a future few women previously dared to imagine. If women are pulled away from the domestic front, will “a new masculinity” emerge, as Mundy predicts, to fill the gap? Maybe so. But only if “the new class of high-powered women” learns to appreciate “a man who can drive a mean car pool.”

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