Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Does a woman’s earnings affect her likelihood of experiencing IPV?

A Newfound Independence

Today’s women are more independent from gendered expectations of women than ever before. On the surface this transition has been relatively smooth. For instance, women have consistently earned more bachelor’s degrees then men, and nine out of ten men claim to be comfortable with women earning more than them. This cultural shift has empowered women to seek opportunities outside of the home and take on new roles within society. Women are accepted as confident, competent leaders who make substantial contributions to the American work force.

Proof of this is seen in the increase in female employment to previously male-dominated jobs, made possible by a revolution in the labor force, improvement in educational opportunities, and changes in the modern family. These changes all contribute to the convergence of gender roles and new family structures.

One of the most significant changes in the modern family is that most women expect to have greater economic responsibility in their families than in the past. Along with this trend, fathers are increasingly contributing to childcare and housework responsibilities. Thus, the stay-at-home expectation for mothers in committed relationships is rapidly changing. Women who are married or are in a committed relationship are in the labor force creating a transition from male dominated single-earning homes to dual-earning homes.

A Gendered Lag

Today’s men face a different story. Rather than encouragement and empowerment that women are increasingly granted in their new societal roles, men are still expected to be macho men’s men, not part-time homemakers. The displacement of long held social norms has left a hole where traditional principles once dictated gender roles. Men are left in limbo as the identity of provider, breadwinner, and head of the household are swept aside by the woman of today. This can lead to the phenomenon known as insecure masculinity.

Insecure masculinity occurs when a man feels emasculated—a loss of manliness and power. Men experiencing insecure masculinity have diverse reactions ranging from withdrawal into one’s self to overt acts of defiance.

What might provoke men to believe that their masculinity is threatened?

Some men feel that their manhood is in question when they do not fit certain gender stereotypes. For example, the hyper-masculine man is considered aggressive, independent, unemotional, and competitive. He has many romantic relationships, is skilled in business, and is ambitious. Self-perception of masculinity is so important that men who feel their masculinity is threatened are compelled to demonstrate their manhood through action.
Manhood is most readily proved through aggression and outward performance. This serves as a face saving technique to restore a positive impression of masculinity or as a way of averting threats to a man’s honor. Sports, fighting, and forms of abuse can be used to prove that a man is dominant.

I propose that the employment of a female partner can have an emasculating effect on men which causes them to be insecure. In extreme cases, intimate partner violence may be used against women as a method to regain men’s masculinity.

Intimate partner violence refers to physical, sexual, or psychological aggression against an intimate partner. Men engage in intimate partner violence as a method of maintaining power and control over their partner.

I use the Violence and Threats of Violence Against Women the United States 1994-1996 survey data for my analysis of intimate partner violence and women out-earning men. This data was using a national random digit dialing sample of 8,000 women 18+ in US homes. The women responded to questions regarding various forms of violence and abuse they experienced. Examples include whether a woman’s partner tries to provoke arguments, tries to limit the respondent’s contact to their friends and family, and whether the partner shouts or swears at her. I use multivariable regressions to analyze how a woman’s difference in earnings from her partner, and education level affect her likelihood of experiencing intimate partner violence.

Intimate Partner Violence

Model 1
Model 2

Income Difference
Education Difference
Number of years married
Experience abuse as a child
Common Law Marriage

Women earning more than their partner is an important indicator of intimate partner violence: For every additional $1,000 a woman makes over her partner, she is .08% more likely to experience intimate partner violence. There was no statistical significance for the difference between levels of education between partners.

One in four women experiences intimate partner violence in their lifetime. This is a tragedy in itself, but more concerning is the fact that the changes in women’s social position may actually cause the amount of intimate partner violence to increase. The annual growth rate of women in the labor force is 2.6%. As women increasingly earn higher wages and occupy more prestigious positions in society, adjustments must be made to fit new dynamics in relationships. Specifically, social and cultural shifts associated with the gender identity of men are necessary to keep up with the progressive nature of women's gender roles.

Over time, cultural values will change to reflect a compatible man of today for the woman of today; I am hopeful that the rate of intimate partner violence will drop.

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