We are continuing our discussion of the Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers recent survey as well as the organization’s response to the results. The survey asked academy members about spousal maintenance — it used to be called “alimony” — and found that family law professionals nationwide had noticed an increase in the number of women paying both spousal support and child support.
For the academy, the results provided evidence that women are moving up the financial ladder and becoming the major breadwinners in the household. The organization’s president-elect says, too, that this is all part of a sea change in society and women’s roles. For example, look at how many more women are in law school now than 30 or 40 years ago. And now that women are holding the purse strings, divorcing women are taking on the burden that men have shouldered for so long.
The argument has some merit. According to the American Association of University Women, working women are contributing more to family income than they had. In 1983, the woman contributed about 29 percent of the average family income; by 2008, the percentage had risen to 36 percent. The AAUW reports, too, that 34 percent of working mothers are the sole breadwinners in their families.
Still, the idea that more women are paying child support or spousal maintenance because the glass ceiling is finally shattering seems not to be borne out by other data. That 34 percent of working mothers, for example, includes households without a man and households with an unemployed man. And while more women may be in the workforce, on average, women make 23 percent less than men.
The AAUW’s analysis of the pay gap makes it clear that gender is not the only factor driving the difference. We’ll go into that more in our next post.
Reuters, “Divorce courts mirror society as more women pay alimony,” Patricia Reaney, May 10, 2012
American Association of University Women, “The Simple Truth About the Gender Pay Gap, 2012,” April 2012