The topic of pay equality between the sexes has been a hot topic for decades. I remember reading about it when I was a young child, and here I am in my late 30s and I’m still reading about the topic. Today’s pay equality news is a bit better than the stories from my youth, though. Evidently the recent recession has helped boost salaries and in 2009, 38 percent of wives out-earned their husbands.
A new chart (PDF) produced by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) tracks the earnings of married couples going back to 1987. The chart examines both wives who earn more than their working husbands as well as families where the husband may or may not have earnings. The 38 percent figure is for the latter category.
This is where the recession comes into play. During the Great Recession, men were affected more severely than their female counterparts with many men giving up the job search to become their child’s primary caregiver. This makes it relatively easy for a working wife to earn more than her stay-at-home spouse.
When you look at the bigger picture, with both the husband and wife earning an income, the data is not nearly as rosy. In 2009, only 28.9 percent of wives earned more than their working husbands. This was up from 26.6 percent in 2008 and up significantly from the 17.8 percent rate posted in 1987.
Unfortunately the gap in pay between males and females, specifically married couples, is still an issue. I know that in our household, there is significant disparity between my income and my husband’s income. He is the primary wage earner and I’m the primary caregiver of two children with special needs. I still earn an income, but I definitely don’t fall into the 28.9 percent of women who out-earn their working husband.