Educated men less likely to care about wife adopting his surname, study shows

PORTLAND, Ore. — A woman not taking on her husband’s last name might not seem like a big deal in 2017, but one study finds that it apparently still matters to some men. Researchers say that men who have completed higher education are less likely to feel conflicted should their wives choose to keep their own surname. 

Examining a diverse sample of 1,242 individuals nationwide, researchers at Portland State University in Oregon published their recent findings in the journal Gender Issues.

Noting that Hillary Clinton only gave up her maiden name 37 years ago in light of her husband’s gubernatorial campaign, the researchers presented a hypothetical situation to gauge popular opinion on the importance of a wife adopting her husband’s surname. The researchers, led by Professor Emily Fitzgibbons Shafer, presented the narrative of a woman named Carol Sherman who’s married to Bill Cook. Carol, notably, is a career woman, while her husband has picked up more of the slack with housework.

Participants were asked to choose one of three last names that they believed Carol should take on: her maiden name, Sherman; her married name, Cook; or the hyphenated Sherman-Cook. Shafer found that male participants whose education did not exceed a high school diploma saw women who kept their maiden names to be less committed. They expressed that they could justifiably be divorced more easily, and should work less.

Women, along with men with more education, expressed the opposite. Surname choice mattered little, and relationship roles or expectations were not contingent upon the adoption of a given surname.

These findings align with previous research, according to Shafer. “The gains women have made in the last 60 years – for example, in terms of employment and earnings – have not occurred equally across socio-economic groups or across outcomes,” she says in a release.

A 2004 study showed that 94% of women took on their husband’s surname upon getting married.



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