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Straying from breadwinning: Status and money in men's interpretations of their wives' work arrangements

The male breadwinner identity is culturally associated with career success for men, particularly in the professions, but today, few married men's lives easily map onto this identity. This study analyses interviews with 42 married men employed in US offices of a consulting firm to examine first, how men construct their identities as spouses in relation to their wives' work arrangements and second, how men navigate straying from the male breadwinner identity. While some men interpreted their wives' work in ways that supported personal claims on the breadwinner identity, others did so in ways that supported a more egalitarian identity, labelled here breadsharer. These groups differed in how they interpreted the social status and financial value of their wives' work, as well as in how they approached their own careers. Breadsharers were aware they strayed from the expected breadwinner identity and crafted alternative claims on status. These findings advance theory on gender, work, family and masculinity.

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