And Fry It Up in a Pan

It’s social change alright: 26 percent of working wives out-earned their working husbands in 2006, up by nearly half from 20 years ago.

INSERT DESCRIPTIONSource: Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Now that many more women are graduating college than men, higher-earning wives are going to become the new normal.

Also, notice that the line bumps upward around both the 1991 and 2001 recessions. A working spouse provides insurance against the vicissitudes of the business cycle; think about it — a pay cut is only half as painful when your spouse is working than when you are the only earner. For men who typically work in cyclically sensitive industries, this insurance pays dividends during a recession. Indeed, you can bet that we’ll see many more women bringing home the bacon this year.

Plenty more intriguing statistics, here.

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  1. Mike says:

    With any luck, I’ll be one of those husbands in a few years.

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  2. chappy says:

    Interesting indeed, but I would like to see this broken out by family income quintiles. The distribution and composition is probably more important than the stat itself.

    For the record, I certainly enjoy this trend myself as my wife certainly earns more than I do. However, we both have pretty good jobs, so I’m not sure the insurace value of the new ‘bacon winners’ is that great if the women don’t have good jobs to fall back on. You only show the numbers in instances where both have earnings, and the numbers are obviously larger when the male has zero earnings. I guess my point is, is this stat really a win for women if they are supporting very low earning men?

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  3. Daniel says:

    While a pay cut for a two-income family is only half as painful, it is also roughly twice as likely to occur. My wife and I view is this way: she chooses to stay home with our young children, but if I were to lose my job, she could go back to work, helping to cushion the effects of any unemployment/underemployment we experience from my layoff. We’re also much more able to relocate for a job opportunity, since we don’t have to worry about how or whether the other spouse will find a job in the new city.

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  4. econobiker says:

    “A working spouse provides insurance against the vicissitudes of the business cycle; think about it — a pay cut is only half as painful when your spouse is working than when you are the only earner. For men who typically work in cyclically sensitive industries, this insurance pays dividends during a recession. ”

    With the pressures of job export and illegal immigrant wage depression, many jobs once held by men are gone or the pay/benefits are so low that a man cannot support a family on that wage. And more women work in healthcare or service related industries which have employment classes which, by definition, cannot be exported to 3rd world countries paying slave labor wages… So if a husband is in manufacturing and the wife is in nursing – she stands an easy chance to make more than he does with greater job security…

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  5. charles says:

    Actually, the working spouse as insurance is incorrect. The insurance is having one not working.

    Think about it. Odds are very high that if you start with two incomes that you will have priced yourselves into some sort of lifestyle. Now you just exposed yourself to double the chance of job loss. If both are high income…all the more trouble.

    So in order to maintain your standard of living, the now unemployed spouse must find work at or near the same pay grade.

    Now for one income. It is less likely that 1 individual will lose a job than 1 of 2 will. Second, now you have two unemployed people which doubles the chance one will find employment.

    Now if we were a nation of people with two wage earners living off of one, then I’d buy in. Sadly, we are not.

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  6. Eric M. Jones says:

    There may be details of the study I have missed, but the statistics could have been the result of struggling poor women who are trying to raise a few kids and putting up with a loser husband with a long history of incarceration and a drug habit (etc.).

    I find it hard to be optimistic about these statistics. Most men would be incarcerated if it were not for the women in their life.

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  7. Helen says:

    Re: comments above regarding “insurance”
    I don’t think “banking” your unemployed-spouse’s outside-the-home labor potential to cash in when needed is particularly wise. Trying to cash out at the same time everyone else is is what makes a “bank run”. End result, no one’s happy with what they end up with.

    As for the statistics: interesting picture, but I would love to see total earnings over time, to see how the percentages survive children. I was primary breadwinner for the first ten years or so, but have finally been eclipsed (yay!). We also have one kid, but that hasn’t affected my income…yet. Two kids or more might though.

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  8. Bobby G says:

    I agree with Mike.

    One of my life goals is to become a trophy husband. You go out and earn and I’ll stay home and raise the kids, no problem. I’ll drive em to school and basketball practice and have dinner ready when you get home. Any takers? Haha

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