Men With Traditional Views on Sex Roles Earn More Money

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Men who believe in traditional roles for women earn more money than their more forward-thinking counterparts, finds a new study.

The results suggest the gender pay gap, documented in previous research, is more than an economic phenomenon.

"Psychology has an important role to play, too," said researcher Timothy Judge of the University of Florida's Warrington College of Business Administration. "Our country's policies have been leaning toward gender equality for decades now. But, according to our study, traditional gender role views continue to work against this goal."

The researchers suggest psychology can maintain a man's place as primary breadwinner and a woman's as happy homemaker through the idea of self-fulfilling prophecies and just a basic acceptance of social expectations, including the idea that women soon hit glass ceilings in the corporate world.

"More traditional people may be seeking to preserve the historical separation of work and domestic roles. Our results prove that is, in fact, the case," Judge said. "This is happening even in today's work force where men and women are supposedly equal as far as participation."

Judge and UF colleague Beth Livingston analyzed information from interviews of nearly 8,000 individuals, ages 14 to 22, at the study's start in 1979. Interviews also took place in 1982, 1987 and 2004. The participants were part of the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth carried out by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

To reveal their gender role views, participants indicated how strongly they agreed or disagreed with statements such as: a woman's place is in the home; employment of wives leads to more juvenile delinquency; a man should be the achiever outside the home; and women are much happier if they stay home and take care of children.

Results showed that men who reported having more traditional gender role attitudes made an average of about $8,500 more annually than those who had less traditional attitudes.

Women who held more traditional views about gender roles made an average of $1,500 less annually than the women with more egalitarian views.

So if a married couple holds traditional gender role attitudes, the husband's earning advantage is predicted to be eight times greater than a married couple where the husband and wife have more egalitarian attitudes, the researchers noted.

The results held even when other factors were taken into account, such as industry, occupation, hours worked and number of children.

Other study findings included:

  • People living in Northeastern U.S. cities reported less traditional views regarding gender roles.
  • People whose parents both worked outside the home had less traditional views.
  • Married, religious people tended to have more traditional gender role views.
  • Younger people had less traditional views, but became more traditional over time.

As for the implications of the results for the everyday person, the researchers stress they don't want to tell people what to do or what to believe.

"In general if your interest is to reduce the gender wage gap, then teaching your children and adhering to non-traditional attitudes toward gender roles is the way to go," Livingston told LiveScience." If that's your goal, we have to work on promoting less traditional attitudes toward gender."

The results are published in the September issue of the Journal of Applied Psychology.

Jeanna Bryner
Live Science Editor-in-Chief

Jeanna served as editor-in-chief of Live Science. Previously, she was an assistant editor at Scholastic's Science World magazine. Jeanna has an English degree from Salisbury University, a master's degree in biogeochemistry and environmental sciences from the University of Maryland, and a graduate science journalism degree from New York University. She has worked as a biologist in Florida, where she monitored wetlands and did field surveys for endangered species. She also received an ocean sciences journalism fellowship from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.