Scandinavian Working Papers in Economics

Working Paper Series,
Stockholm University, Swedish Institute for Social Research

No 3/2019: Gender Identity and Relative Income within Households-Evidence from Sweden

Karin Hederos and Anders Stenberg
Additional contact information
Karin Hederos: Swedish Institute for Social Research, Stockholm University, Postal: SOFI, Stockholm University, SE-106 91 Stockholm, Sweden
Anders Stenberg: Swedish Institute for Social Research, Stockholm University, Postal: SOFI, Stockholm University, SE-106 91 Stockholm, Sweden

Abstract: Bertrand et al. (2015) show that in the U.S.,the distribution of the wife’s share of household income drops sharply at the point where the wife starts to earn more than her husband. They attribute the drop to a gender identity norm prescribing that a wife’s income should not exceed her husband’s income. We document a similar sharp drop in Swedish administrative register data. However, we also show that there is a large spike in the distribution of the wife’s share of household income at the point where spouses earn exactly the same. The wives in the equal-earning couples do not have higher earnings potential than their husbands, suggesting that the spike is not generated by couples seeking to avoid that the wife earns more than her husband. Excluding the equal-earning couples, the drop is small and mostly statistically insignificant. We conclude that, if anything, we find only weak evidence that Swedish couples comply with a norm against wives earning more than their husbands.

Keywords: Gender roles; gender norms; marriage market; gender gap; gender identity

JEL-codes: D10; J12; J16

39 pages, June 28, 2019

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