Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Barbie Takes Charge When Ken Gets Axed

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Barbie Takes Charge When Ken Gets Axed

Article excerpt

For at least two young members of the echo boom generation, Americans born from 1977 to 1995, the lives of Barbie and Ken have been updated to reflect the reality of our times.

Ken supervises the kids three days a week after being downsized. He also takes a college course. Barbie sold her hot pink convertible and is now contemplating buying a more affordable, and practical, station wagon. She still works, of course. But now she is the primary breadwinner.

I heard about this role reversal while listening to a friend's 8- year-old and 4-year-old daughters. From the privacy of her kitchen, I nursed a cup of tea and eavesdropped unabashedly while the children acted out an impromptu skit in a nearby playroom. "You stay home. I go to work," Susan informed her younger sister, Carolyn, who had the role of Ken. "But that's not fair!" wailed Carolyn. "You got downsized, silly. Downsized means you lost your job." "But I don't want to be downed," the younger child said. "It's not downed. It's downsized," Susan said. "And there's nothing you can do about it. Anyway, that's what happened to Daddy, remember?" Carolyn paused. "Is that why he's home more?" "Yes, and it's why Mommy's going to get another car, and Daddy's in school sometimes, and why we get to play with him." "Oh," brightened Carolyn. "OK." My friend's children are still young enough to play with Barbie and Ken. But they are old enough to pick up on one relatively new trend: In two-parent households, more and more women are primary breadwinners, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. Of 54 million households with married couples, 5.5 percent rely on the wife to bring home the bulk of the family's income, federal statistics show. Moreover, in such dual-earner families, 22 percent of wives earn more than their husbands, up from 18 percent in 1987 and 4.4 percent in 1970. Other statistics seem to suggest a trend. New York-based Catalyst, for example, reported in a 1996 study of 461 women who were vice presidents or held higher positions at Fortune 1,000 companies, 75 percent were primary earners. Of the women surveyed, 72 percent were married; 64 percent had children. …

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