More women now make as much as their husbands, but still do more at home

3 min read

New York

Few women will be surprised to learn that even when wives earn about the same as their husbands or more, a new Pew Research Center study finds that they still spend more time on housework and child care, while their husbands spend more time on paid work and leisure.

“Even as financial contributions have become more equal in marriages, the way couples divide their time between paid work and home life remains unbalanced,” Pew noted.

So who’s earning what?

Pew found that in 29% of heterosexual marriages today, women and men earn about the same (roughly $60,000 each). “Husbands in egalitarian marriages spend about 3.5 hours more per week on leisure activities than wives do. Wives in these marriages spend roughly 2 hours more per week on caregiving than husbands do and about 2.5 hours more on housework,” the study notes.

In 55% of opposite-sex marriages, men are the primary or sole breadwinners, earning a median of $96,000 to their wives’ $30,000.

Meanwhile, in 16% of marriages the wives outearn their husbands as the primary (10%) or sole breadwinner (6%). In these marriages women earn a median of $88,000 to their husbands’ $35,000.

Of all of these categories, the only one in which men are reported to spend more time caregiving than their wives is when the woman is the sole breadwinner. And the time spent per week on household chores in those marriages is split evenly between husbands and wives.

In all instances, it’s a big change from 50 years ago — when, for instance, husbands were the primary breadwinner in 85% of marriages.

Today, which women are most likely to be the primary or sole breadwinners can vary by age, family status, education and race.

For instance, Pew found Black women are “significantly more likely” than other women to earn more than their husbands. For instance, 26% of Black women bring home more than their husbands, while only 17% of White women and 13% of Hispanic women do.

But Black women with a college degree or higher and few children at home are also among the most likely to earn about the same as their husbands.

These numbers are reported against a backdrop of society’s attitudes about who should earn more and how caregiving should be divvied up between spouses.

Nearly half of Americans (48%) in Pew’s survey said husbands prefer to earn more than their wives, while 13% said men would prefer their wives earn about the same as them.

What do women want? Twenty-two percent of Americans said most women want a husband who earns more, while 26% said most would want a man who earns about the same.

Meanwhile, when it comes to having a family, 77% said that children are better off when both parents focus equally on their job and on taking care of the kids. Only 19% said children are better off when their mother focuses more on home life and their father focuses more on his job.

The Pew study is based on three data sources: earnings data from the US Census’ Current Population Survey; data from the American Time Use Survey and a nationally representative survey of public attitudes among 5,152 US adults conducted in January.

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