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Should it be law for women to take their husband's name? Half of Americans think so

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Matt and Heather Koehler's wedding photography didn't show up for their special day, so Dana Gruszynski recreated their wedding -- and photos -- free of charge. (File photo: KUTV)

More than 70% of Americans believe a woman should change her surname to her husband's after getting married, and approximately half of all Americans believe it should be a government requirement.

A 2017 study in Gender Issues arrived at those numbers.

"The most common reason given by individuals who advocated women's name change was the belief that women should prioritize their marriage and their family ahead of themselves," Portland State University sociology professor Emily Fitzgibbons Shafer said in her study.

More than 1,200 people, which is enough to be statistically significant, were surveyed for the study.

The study used a fictional scenario by using the same woman, married to Bill Cook, but with three different last names: Carol Sherman, Carol Sherman-Cook, or Carol Cook.

"Carol has been spending a lot of extra hours at her office job hoping for a promotion," the study stated. "Bill is starting to feel burdened by her absence, as he is picking up her slack in housework."

People taking the survey were then asked to rate how committed Carol was to being a wife.

The survey then asked how many late work days from Carol that Bill should be okay with, and rating how justified Bill would be in divorcing her.

"Among women and highly educated men, women's surname choice seems to have little effect on their perceptions of women as a wife or the standards to which she is held in marriage." Low-educated men, however, thought a woman who chose a different last name from her husband's was less committed to the marriage and that her husband would be more justified in filing for a divorce "for her perceived neglect of the marriage (as measured through repeated lateness)," Fitzgibbons Shafer writes in her study.


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