Last week I wrote about how Americans are increasingly likely to say they want to be in more egalitarian marriages, though those preferences are not always borne out by reality.
A few readers wrote me to ask about the underlying data I was referring to, so here are more details. They are brought to you, by the way, via The Post’s excellent and super-helpful polling department.
In 1977, CBS News/The New York Times surveyed Americans with the following question: “What kind of marriage do you think is the more satisfying way of life — one where the husband provides for the family and the wife takes care of the house and children, or one where the husband and wife both have jobs, both do housework, and both take care of the children?” Half of women, and just shy of half of men, chose the second option. (For brevity, I’ll refer to the first option as the more “egalitarian” arrangement, and the second as the more “traditional” arrangement.)
By 2011, when the question was asked again by CBS News/60 Minutes/Vanity Fair, responses had changed dramatically. About two-thirds of men and three-quarters of women said that more egalitarian marriages were more satisfying.
In other words, women were again more likely than men to find families with traditional gender roles relatively unsatisfying, but majorities of both sexes still prefer the egalitarian option by a wide margin.
In fact, the same pattern held for every income and age group: Men were more likely than women to prefer the traditional marriage (though the difference was not always statistically significant) — and majorities of both still preferred a more egalitarian arrangement. The biggest gap was between older men and older women, but even a slight majority of older men professed that
And here are the responses broken down by household income:
As I noted in the column, stated preferences seem to be more traditional for a particular segment of highly elite men — graduates of Harvard Business School — at least based on their responses to a different survey question about their “expectations” for their future family arrangements. More on that is here. (Are Harvard men all sexist jerks? The answer may surprise you!)
Another group that expresses more traditional preferences for family relationships, by the way, is Mormons. Here are the findings from Pew surveys of Mormons and of the general public, collected in 2011 and 2010 respectively, on that initial question I described about “satisfying” marriages.