Richardson, Tex. (CBS HOUSTON) — Men who spend long, 50-plus hours at work each week have the happiest, healthy wives.

A new study published in the journal Social Forces finds that a wife’s quality of life is improved when her husband spends more time at the office, or on the job. On the other hand, wives who work long hours have husbands whose health is negatively affected by staying home.

Researchers from the University of Texas at Dallas and Indiana University studied the relationships of nearly 4,000 middle-aged men and women between the years 1979 and 2004 to show how increased workplace equality has affected family life. The data showed that the more overtime that men work, the healthier their wives become. The most positive results were shown from couples where the husband worked at least 50 hours each week.

“The greater income brought in by men’s longer hours may be protective of women’s health,” write the researchers.

But the same is not true of wives who work long hours, with the data showing that “house-husbands” have negative health effects from their wives’ extended workweek.

“In contrast, men whose wives work moderately long hours are particularly less likely to spend as much time on vigorous exercise or sports, such as running, swimming, or bicycling.”

The researchers found that hardworking women were less likely than men to earn enough income to pay for benefits such as a cleaner, so men would need to manage an increased amount of household chores and care-taking. Campaign group Mothers At Home Matter told The Daily Mail: “This underlines the true value of the work which women have traditionally done. It remains a huge and all-consuming job.”

But the traditional stay-at-home mother and working-father family archetype has been linked to a series of negative attributes, including a Joseph Rowntree Foundation report which showed that such families are more likely to live below the poverty line than those with two working parents, or a working wife.

Data collected by the Pew Research Center in 2013 found that 75 percent of young women believe the U.S. needs to do more to bring about equality in the workplace, despite a quickly narrowing pay gap and steady employment gains for women in high levels of business and government career paths.

Pew found that women under 32 now make 93 percent of what young men earn, which is largely driven by women starting their careers more educated than their male counterparts. Thirty-eight percent of women ages 25-32 now hold bachelor’s degrees, compared with 31 percent of male peers. As a result, 49 percent of employed workers with at least a bachelor’s degree last year were women, an increase from 36 percent in 1980.

But women’s career advancement is often impeded by their mid-30s, with data over the past three decades showing that a pay gap arises as women reduce or take time off to start families.

Gender stereotyping, discrimination, weaker professional networks and women’s hesitancy to be aggressive when asking for pay increases or job promotions were attributed to between 20 and 40 percent of gender pay gaps.

— Benjamin Fearnow


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