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Wives' work and family income mobility

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  • Katharine Bradbury
  • Jane Katz
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    Abstract

    Over the past 30 years, married women in the United States have significantly increased their labor market activity and become an integral factor in their families’ ongoing economic wellbeing. This change raises questions about the economic impact of two-earner families becoming the norm. Do American families now need both a working husband and a working wife to have any hope of getting ahead or to keep from falling behind? How much does a wife’s labor market activity (participation, hours, and earnings) matter in her family’s ability to make income gains, hold its place relative to other families, or avoid losing ground? ; Using data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics, this paper focuses on married-couple families during three ten-year periods (1969-79; 1979-89; 1988-98) to see whether favorable family income mobility outcomes are associated with greater wives’ labor market activity and finds that they are. Wives in families that moved ahead or maintained their position had high and rising employment rates, work hours, and pay. Moreover, the annual earnings of wives in upwardly mobile families increased relative to those of their husbands. The popular perception that families needed to work more hours just to hold their own relative to other families is confirmed, and almost all of the increase in work hours came from wives.

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    Bibliographic Info

    Paper provided by Federal Reserve Bank of Boston in its series Public Policy Discussion Paper with number 04-3.

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    Date of creation: 2004
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    Handle: RePEc:fip:fedbpp:04-3

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    Keywords: Women - Employment ; Hours of labor ; Labor market;

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    1. Peter Gottschalk & Sheldon Danziger, 1997. "Family Income Mobility -- How Much Is There and Has It Changed?," Boston College Working Papers in Economics 398, Boston College Department of Economics.
    2. Levy, Frank & Murnane, Richard J, 1992. "U.S. Earnings Levels and Earnings Inequality: A Review of Recent Trends and Proposed Explanations," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 30(3), pages 1333-81, September.
    3. Francine D. Blau & Lawrence M. Kahn, 2000. "Gender Differences in Pay," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 14(4), pages 75-99, Fall.
    4. Joyce P. Jacobsen, 2004. "Women as labor force participants: effects of family and organizational structure," Conference Series ; [Proceedings], Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, issue Mar.
    5. Larry E. Jones & Rodolfo E. Manuelli & Ellen R. McGrattan, 2003. "Why are married women working so much?," Staff Report 317, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
    6. Katharine L. Bradbury & Jane Katz, 2002. "Women's labor market involvement and family income mobility when marriages end," New England Economic Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, issue Q 4, pages 41-74.
    7. Claudia Goldin, 2004. "From the Valley to the Summit: The Quiet Revolution that Transformed Women's Work," NBER Working Papers 10335, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    Cited by:
    1. Heather Boushey & Christian E. Weller, 2006. "Inequality and Household Economic Hardship in the United States of America," Working Papers 18, United Nations, Department of Economics and Social Affairs.

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