Spousal Breadwinning Across 30 Years of Marriage and Husbands’ Health: A Gendered Life Course Stress Approach

Kristen W. Springer, Chioun Lee, Deborah Carr

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Objective: Wives increasingly outearn their husbands, and gender relations theory suggests this arrangement may undermine men’s well-being. We explore how long-term histories of spousal breadwinning may be associated with older men’s self-rated mental and physical health, and risk of nine health diagnoses. Method: Using 30 years of couple-level income data from the Health and Retirement Study (n = 1,095 couples), we use latent class analyses to identify six classes that differ with respect to the timing and level of wife breadwinning. We link these classes to older husbands’ later-life health. Results: Classes that transitioned from husband breadwinning to wife breadwinning in early or later adulthood were associated with husbands’ poorer overall physical health and risk of cardiometabolic and stress-related diseases. Patterns persist net of sociodemographics, depressive symptoms, health behaviors, and adolescent health. Discussion: Violating cultural expectations, such as the masculinity ideal of male breadwinning, is associated with older men’s poorer health.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)37-66
Number of pages30
JournalJournal of aging and health
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies


  • gender
  • life course
  • marriage
  • masculinity
  • relative income


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