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Journal Article

Status Maintenance or Status Competition? Wife's Relative Wages as a Determinant of Labor Supply and Marital Instability

Ronald D'Amico
Social Forces
Vol. 61, No. 4 (Jun., 1983), pp. 1186-1205
Published by: Oxford University Press
DOI: 10.2307/2578286
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2578286
Page Count: 20
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Status Maintenance or Status Competition? Wife's Relative Wages as a Determinant of Labor Supply and Marital Instability
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Abstract

This paper tests two contending theories about the effect of the interaction between husband's and wife's earnings capabilities on the wife's labor force participation and on the probability of marital dissolution. The first of these is Parsons' status competition model which suggests that, other things equal, the higher a woman's wage potential relative to her husband's the more peripheral should be her labor force attachment. Violation of this constraint by her employment in a status competitive position is presumed to lead to increased risk of marital disruption. By contrast, Oppenheimer's status maintenance model proposes that the family's efforts to enhance its position in the socioeconomic hierarchy is an inducement to the wife's employment the more congruent her potential labor force achievement is with her husband's. Our results generally support the Oppenheimer model, although some support for Parsons' model was found. We conclude by emphasizing the need for study of the interactive linkages between husbands' and wives' careers.

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