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Researchers Examine Stereotypes about Dual-Earner Couples

Researchers Examine Stereotypes about Dual-Earner Couples

The term “dual-earner couples” often leads to erroneous assumptions, as Penny Edgell Becker and Phyllis Moen reported in their 1999 paper Scaling Back: Dual-Earner Couples’ Work-Family Strategies. Conducting “117 interviews with working men and women at various life-course stages who are members of dual-earner couples,” the researchers explain: “Our goal is to conceptualize dual-earner couples as decision-making units, to understand couples’ patterns of and plans for meshing work and family across the life course as they interweave work and family careers.” Becker & Moen explain the common assumptions and their findings: “The conventional depiction of middle-class working couples, especially those in professional or managerial jobs, is of two people heavily invested in climbing their respective career ladders” [five citations follow this statement in the article]. They continue, “but only a few couples in our study fit this stereotypical picture, forging ahead with two demanding careers.” They explain that the majority of the couples they studied “are typically engaged in what we call scaling back – strategies that reduce and restructure the couple’s commitment to paid work over the life course, and thereby buffer the family from work encroachments. We identify three separate scaling-back strategies: placing limits; having a one-job, one-career marriage; and trading off.”

Becker, P.E. & Moen, P. (1999). Scaling Back: Dual-Earner Couples’ Work-Family Strategies. Journal of Marriage and the Family, Vol. 61, No. 4:995-1007.

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