The Rise of the Sugar Momma

By David Crary, AP National Writer

NEW YORK (AP) — Historically, marriage was the surest route to financial security for women. Nowadays it's men who are increasingly getting the biggest economic boost from tying the knot, according to a new analysis of census data.

The changes, summarized in a Pew Research Center report being released Tuesday, reflect the proliferation of working wives over the past 40 years — a period in which American women outpaced men in both education and earnings growth. A larger share of today's men, compared with their 1970 counterparts, are married to women whose education and income exceed their own, and a larger share of women are married to men with less education and income.

"From an economic perspective, these trends have contributed to a gender role reversal in the gains from marriage," wrote the report's authors, Richard Fry and D'Vera Cohn.

"In the past, when relatively few wives worked, marriage enhanced the economic status of women more than that of men. In recent decades, however, the economic gains associated with marriage have been greater for men."

One barometer is median household income — which rose 60% between 1970 and 2007 for married men, married women and unmarried women, but only 16% for unmarried men, according to the Pew data.

The report focused on U.S.-born men and women aged 30-44 — a stage when typical adults have finished their education, married and launched careers. The Pew report noted that today's Americans in this age group are the first such cohort in U.S. history to include more women than men with college degrees.

In 1970, according to the report, 28% of wives in this age range had husbands who were better educated than they were, outnumbering the 20% whose husbands had less education. By 2007, these patterns had reversed — 19% of wives had husbands with more education, compared with 28% whose husbands had less education.

In the remaining couples — about half in 1970 and 2007 — spouses had similar education levels.

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