More women are achieving primary breadwinner status among U.S. households, as our colleagues at Daily Ticker reported this week. So it follows that the younger generation of women are placing a higher priority on work than men.
In what the Pew Research Center calls a gender reversal, more young women than men say a high-paying career is a top life priority, according to survey findings released Thursday. Two-thirds (66%) of women ages 18 to 34 rated career high on their list of life priorities, compared with 59% of young men. In 1997, 56% of young women and 58% of men felt the same way.
Women's increased focus on career is reflected in their education rates as well. Women now surpass men in college enrollment and graduation. 36% of women ages 25 to 29 hold a bachelor's degree, compared with just 28% of men in the same age group, says Pew Research.
Despite their educational and career strides, it's the same unequal story when it comes to pay. In 2010 full-time or salaried women workers had weekly earnings of $669, while their male counterparts pulled in $829 a week. However, today's young workers have it better than their older counterparts. Among all workers ages 16 to 34, women's earnings are more than 80% of men's, but that number drops to 80% or less for women 35 to 64, according to the survey.
Women might be increasingly career-driven, but it's not at the expense of marriage and family — they still want to have it all. The share of women 18 to 34 for whom having a successful marriage is important has risen to 37% -- up nine percentage points from 28% in 1997. For young men, on the other hand, that number dropped — from 35% in 1997 to 29% now. According to the survey, both men and women rank parenting high on the list of priorities.
These Gen Y-ers might view marriage and family as important, but the overall trend shows that people are marrying and having children later. Partly because 20-somethings, burdened with student debt and poor employment prospects, have fared poorly in the recent financial crisis. Will their dual priorities — of career and family — merely be delayed compared with their parents' generation? Or do they have unrealistic expectations?