A Pew Research study reveals some surprising statistics, including that while men remain the primary earners in most married couples, women’s pay has steadily increased and now averages about the same as their partner’s.
- Over the last 50 years, the number of women who make the same amount or more than their husbands has nearly tripled, according to a Pew Research study.
- In around 29% of opposite-sex marriages in the U.S., spouses earn roughly the same amount.
- Husbands continue to earn more than their wives in around 55% of marriages.
- Wives out-earn their husbands in 16% of marriages.
- The number of husbands who are the sole breadwinner in a family has also declined significantly over the last 50 years. In 1972, husbands were the single source of income in 49% of marriages. That number is now at 23%.
Why it’s news
Expectations of household incomes have changed over the last half a century. While the number of women working has grown, many still earn less than their husbands. Various factors can influence this statistic, including career choices, education level, and work hours a woman commits to.
Modern women contribute a more significant percentage to a couple’s economic resources than in previous years. Since 1972, women’s contributions to the household have roughly tripled in several key areas, including more becoming the primary or sole earner.
However, married women’s participation in the labor force peaked in 2000 and has declined since then, Pew reports.
Race, education, and ethnicity play a significant role in whether or not the wife will be an equal or primary earner in the household. Wives with more education tend to out-earn their husbands. Around 19% of wives with bachelor’s degrees are the primary breadwinner in their marriage. By contrast, only 11% of wives without a high school diploma out-earn their husbands.
Wives also tend to be the primary earner in a household when they have a higher education than their husbands. In 25% of marriages where the wife was the primary earner, the wife had more education than the husband.
Aside from education, race, and ethnicity tends to play a role. Black wives are more likely than wives in other ethnic or racial groups to out-earn their husbands. Around 26% of Black wives are the primary earner.
Age also plays a factor in the primary earner of a household. Younger wives are less likely than older wives to out-earn their husbands. In the 25 to 34 age group, only 11% of wives are the breadwinner compared to 22% of wives in the 55 to 64 age group. This could be partially explained by younger wives being more likely to have children and less available to work.
Mothers with children are less likely to be the primary breadwinner in a household. Around 20% of wives without children out-earn their husbands compared to 15% of wives with one or more children.