How Times Have Changed: Women Outearning Men

January 20th, 2010 by 

An interesting byproduct of the drive for male-female income equality in the workplace: the increase in the proportion of married couples in which a female earns more than the man.   Not only are females earning more, in many cases, but they also are better educated than their male counterparts.  The Pew Research Center gives us this interesting report on the new dynamics of married couples.

Educational Attainment

Since 1970, the role of education in married couples has swapped.  In 1970, 52% of couples shared the same level of degree, while in 28% the male had higher attainment vs. 20% for the female.  In 2007 those numbers are 53% of couples with the same level of education, and 19% of men with a higher level vs. 28% of females.  In just 27 years, the pace of female education has flipped the educational attainment numbers to the female column.

Even more importantly, higher education has definite implications for salary ranges.  The following chart uses 2008 Census data to plot the inflation adjusted (to 2008 dollars) average earnings of each labeled degree type, so you can get a glimpse of how higher education maps to higher earnings.

Inflation Adjusted Salary (Census Data)

Who Brings Home More Money?

The Pew Report tells us that wives bring home more than their husbands in 22% of cases.  Census data tells a different story... among married couples where both the male and the female work, in 2008 the female made more in 26.6% of cases.  In fact, the trend is upwards; it is likely that the proportion of couples with higher earning women will increase through over the next few years.  One small data point from December 2009: men have a 10.2% unemployment rate while females have only an 8.2% rate.

Ratio of Higher Earnings by Females (Census Data)

Where are We Headed?

I'd say the trend is to even more couples with higher earning females.  That's a good thing, even if it causes conflict in a traditionally male dominated role (in 1970, the Pew report claims only 4% of couples had higher earning females).  It has implications on spending trends and even household division of labor.  What do you think about the current trend towards higher earnings by wives in marriages?



PK started DQYDJ in 2009 to research and discuss finance and investing and help answer financial questions. He's expanded DQYDJ to build visualizations, calculators, and interactive tools.

PK lives in New Hampshire with his wife, kids, and dog.

Don't Quit Your Day Job...

DQYDJ may be compensated by our partners if you make purchases through links. See our disclosures page. As an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases.
Sign Up For Emails
linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram