Wives Who Outearn Their Husbands: A Transitory or Permanent Phenomenon for Couples?

Anne Winkler, University of Missouri - St. Louis
Timothy D. McBride, Saint Louis University

In nearly one-fourth of dual-earner couples, wives earn more than their husbands. What this point-in-time statistic does not tell us is how earnings and employment are distributed between spouses dynamically over time. Are the couples cited above persistently in this status, year after year, or do their relative earnings fluctuate? As Blumberg and Coleman (1989) observed, the (in)stability of these patterns likely affects a range of outcomes, including marital stability and risk of domestic abuse. To our knowledge, this study is the first to examine the persistence of relative spousal patterns and offer explanations. We analyze point-in-time data from the 2000 CPS and longitudinal data from the 1996-2000 SIPP. Using the SIPP, we construct a three-year measure of persistence. Among the findings, 22 percent of married couples are nontraditional at a point-in-time and 60 percent of such couples are persistently nontraditional over a three-year period.

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Presented in Session 52: Gender and Family Roles