Educated women quit work as spouses earn more

Thu Mar 8, 2012 8:54am EST
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By Tiziana Barghini

(Reuters) - Susanna Mancini cherishes a photo of herself at 27: a smiling face behind a pair of dark sunglasses. On it, she scrawled to her future husband: "Too bad you can't see my eyes. I am so proud of my tough yuppie stare!"

Her professional pride propelled her early career as a lawyer. She was successful and well paid for it. She kept working when her first child was born and was promoted to a more senior position in Citibank after her second child arrived.

But her career eventually succumbed to something Mancini never expected would end her rise at the bank - her husband's even bigger success. She quit in 2005 when her six-digit income was overtaken by his seven-digit one.

"At that point, it was clear that my wage had become family pocket money. There was a real opportunity to do other things that did not require being chained to a desk," said Mancini, now 50.

She is far from alone, according to a new study from the Federal Reserve, due to be published shortly.

It shows that between 1993 and 2006, there was a decline in the workforce of 0.1 percent a year on average in the number of college-educated women, with similarly educated spouses.

That contrasts with growth of 2.4 percent a year between 1976 and 1992.

The result: the labor force in 2008 had 1.64 million fewer such women than if the growth rate had kept up its earlier trend, slightly more than 1 percent of the total workforce in that year.   Continued...

Susanna Mancini poses for a portrait at her home in New York March 7, 2012. Mancini, a former lawyer who advanced in her career after marrying and having two children, eventually quit in 2005 after her husband's seven-digit earnings exceeded her six-figure salary. She is part of a trend of highly educated U.S. women who have left the workforce as their highly educated husbands' earnings soar. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton