A study published in the February 2006 issue of the Journal of Marriage and Family documents the changes in dual-income married couples for more than 30 years, from 1970 to 2001. The authors find that despite the increase in women's employment over the last three decades, the vast majority of wives are still secondary earners. Secondary earners make at least 40 percent, but less than 60 percent, of the couple's income. The authors found that 39 percent of wives, more than any other group, were classified as secondary providers as recently as 2001.
In that same year, 25 percent of wives were not employed. Although the proportion of wives whose contributions to their family income equaled that of their husbands had nearly doubled since the 1970s, they represent only 24 percent. The number of wives who earn substantially more than their husbands has also increased, tripling to 12 percent. Yet both equal providers and wives who provide more income than their husbands still remain the minority. The authors used the Current Population Survey data for 1970, 1980, 1990, and 2001 to gauge these changes.
Published for over 60 years, the Journal of Marriage and Family features original research and theory, research interpretation and reviews, and critical discussion concerning all aspects of marriage, other forms of close relationships, and families. It is published by the National Council on Family Relations. Information about the National Council on Family Relations can be found at www.ncfr.org.
Co-author Sara Raley is a research assistant and has taught classes on sociology of gender and understanding the world through reading at the University of Maryland. Dr. Marybeth Mattingly and Dr. Suzanne Bianchi also are authors of the study.