More wives now main breadwinners
Written by JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN Sentinel County Editor
Wednesday, 06 March 2013 10:48
Call it bringing home the bacon, or being the primary breadwinner - either way, more wives are now bringing home a bigger slice.
According to research out of Bowling Green State University, the Great Recession of 2007-09 has caused some shifts in earnings among dual-earning married couples. One of those shifts shows an increase in wives bringing home a bigger paycheck than their husbands.
"That's the big story here," said Dr. Krista Payne, a social science data analyst with the National Center for Family and Marriage Research at BGSU.
However the study also revealed another story.
The bigger paychecks for the wives haven't resulted in many of those families being better off financially, Payne added.
"Increasingly, wives are contributing the majority of the family's earnings. But these families aren't necessarily better off," she said.
The research found the following:
• In 65 percent of married couples, both husbands and wives are earners.
• In 2006, among dual earner couples, wives contributed 38 percent to the couple's total earnings on average; by 2011, that figure had risen to 40 percent - a 5 percent increase.
• Over the past five years, the share of dual-earner married couples in which wives are the primary breadwinners (contribute at least 60 percent of the couple's earnings) climbed from 13 percent to 16 percent - a 23 percent increase.
But the study goes on to show that families in which the wife is the primary breadwinner have the lowest median couple earnings. In 2011, among couples in which the wife was the primary breadwinner, median couple earnings were roughly $73,000. For those couples in which the husband earned more, median couple earnings were about $83,000. Couples in which the husband and wife contributed similar proportions of earnings had the highest median couple earnings, at about $84,800.
"These families are not doing as well as others," Payne said of those with women as the prime breadwinners. So while more women are moving up, many are still suffering from lower pay than their male counterparts.
"Women make less than men," she said.
The study does not delve into the reactions of husbands to their wives being paid more. "Some men did have issues with it," in the past, Payne said.
Payne said she expected future research to look into that topic.
The fact that women bringing home bigger paychecks have not resulted in any real gains for families is substantial, she said.
"That speaks to the breadth of the recession," she said.
The study also doesn't go beyond paychecks to the sharing of household chores.
"Hypothetically, we hope they aren't just sharing the breadwinning, but also sharing household tasks," Payne said.
And while women have climbed higher among family breadwinners, Payne said it bears mention that they still only make up 16 percent of the top breadwinners.
"It's still not that big," she said.