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Growing inequality of family incomes: changing families and changing wages


  • Katharine Bradbury


It is widely known that the incomes of U.S. families became more unequal during the 1980s. The reasons for this rise, however, are not at all clear. Numerous factors have been implicated including slow growth, rising demand for highly educated workers, and shifts in family structure and family members' work patterns.> This article describes the 1973-94 increase in inequality of family incomes and related shifts in wage inequality, work trends, and family patterns. The author also examines patterns of inequality among the nine Census regions in the United States and differences in their economic and demographic characteristics. She then investigates the relationship between family income inequality and these factors. In brief, changes in both economic factors and family structure have been associated with rising family income inequality over the last two decades, with the increase in single parenthood and the growing wage premium to college education playing key roles. Among regions, part-time work, low labor force participation, and minority population are associated with greater inequality.

Suggested Citation

  • Katharine Bradbury, 1996. "Growing inequality of family incomes: changing families and changing wages," New England Economic Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, issue Jul, pages 55-82.
  • Handle: RePEc:fip:fedbne:y:1996:i:jul:p:55-82

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    Cited by:

    1. Willem Thorbecke, 2002. "A Dual Mandate for the Federal Reserve: The Pursuit of Price Stability and Full Employment," Eastern Economic Journal, Eastern Economic Association, vol. 28(2), pages 255-268, Spring.
    2. Hardman, Anna & Ioannides, Yannis M., 2004. "Neighbors' income distribution: economic segregation and mixing in US urban neighborhoods," Journal of Housing Economics, Elsevier, vol. 13(4), pages 368-382, December.
    3. Yolanda K. Kodrzycki, 2004. "College completion gaps between blacks and whites: what accounts for regional differences," New England Economic Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, pages 37-62.
    4. Mary C. Daly & Robert G. Valletta, 2000. "Changing Family Behavior and the U.S. Income Distribution," Econometric Society World Congress 2000 Contributed Papers 1640, Econometric Society.
    5. Richard V. Burkhauser & Kenneth A. Couch & Andrew Houtenville & Ludmila Rovba, 2003. "Income Inequality in the 1990s: Re-forging a Lost Relationship," Journal of Income Distribution, Journal of Income Distribution, vol. 12(3-4), pages 2-2, September.
    6. Thorbecke, Willem, 2001. "Estimating the effects of disinflationary monetary policy on minorities," Journal of Policy Modeling, Elsevier, vol. 23(1), pages 51-66, January.
    7. Manuel Carvajal, 2006. "Economic grounds for affirmative action: The evidence on architects and engineers in South Florida," Review of Social Economy, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 64(4), pages 515-538.
    8. Janet Currie & Aaron Yelowitz, 1999. "Health Insurance and Less Skilled Workers," NBER Working Papers 7291, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    9. Anna Hardman & Yannis Ioannides, 2004. "Income Mixing and Housing in U.S. Cities: Evidence from Neighborhood Clusters of the American Housing Survey," Discussion Papers Series, Department of Economics, Tufts University 0420, Department of Economics, Tufts University.
    10. Willem Thorbeck, 1997. "Disinflationary Monetary Policy and the Distribution of Income," Macroeconomics 9711008, EconWPA.

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    Income distribution ; Wages;


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