The Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers recently surveyed its membership -- attorneys around the country that deal with marriage and divorce -- about gender differences with spousal maintenance and child support. In our last couple of posts, we have been talking about the survey results as well as the conclusions drawn from the results: The survey may show that more women are paying spousal and child support to their ex-husbands now, but that does not necessarily mean that women are the economic equals of men.
The American Association of University Women has been analyzing the pay gap between men and women for a number of years. This year's report shows that the gap is narrowing, but the gap still exists. Nationwide, women earn about 77 percent of what men earn. In Illinois, the data is a little more favorable, with women earning 76 percent of what men earn; most states came in within one or two percentage points of the national average.
It is true that women and men make different choices in college and careers that have lifelong impacts on earning. But the data also show that education may increase a woman's earning potential without affecting the pay gap: Women with professional degrees, for example, still only earn 72 percent of what their male counterparts earn.
The matrimonial lawyers' survey fails to account for the effects of the recession. Male-dominated industries slowed down considerably -- construction, for example -- leaving husbands earning less and their wives, by default, the major breadwinners. These women may not be anywhere near the glass ceiling unless it's with a rag and some Windex. There's a leap in logic that women are doing well just because they are earning more than their husbands.
Our point is that there is no easy explanation for the survey's findings. And, regardless of the reason that more wives are supporting their exes, the fact remains that divorce can result in a dramatic decrease in income for a childless woman or a single mom. Perhaps the academy's next survey will focus on the poverty rate among divorced women and how matrimonial lawyers can help to mitigate the motherhood penalty we talked about last week.
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