Married women are now accounting for nearly half of all households' earnings, as the recession has cost more men their jobs.
Wives' incomes account for 47 percent of household earnings, rising from 38 percent in 1988. Meanwhile, husbands' contributions dropped to 53 percent from 62 percent, according to a report from the Carsey Institute at the University of New Hampshire.
The study's author, Kristin Smith, used census data to compare the earnings of married women and married men, including unemployed people, reports The Boston Globe
Traditionally, women's contributions to their family incomes rise during recessions, as men lose jobs and women become primary breadwinners. Even after the husbands return to work, the wives' earnings stay as a higher percentage while families try to recover from their financial losses.
“Anybody who’s getting ahead, it’s because they’re working more, and in most of the households that’s women,” said Jesus Gerena, director of the Family Independence Initiative in Boston.
Women who have gone to college play an even larger role in homes where men do not have a college degree. Job losses during the recession hit men with lower levels of education the worst, and their wives started becoming the breadwinners, the Carsey study said.
But even though women are now contributing more money to family budgets, and their salaries and education have continued to grow, there is still a wage gap between the sexes. Nationally, women on average still earn 77 cents for every dollar a man earns.
The wage gap gets even wider as women progress in their careers, due to fewer rules about equal pay among executives, said Victoria Budson, executive director of the Women and Public Policy Program at Harvard University’s Kennedy School.
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