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Employment Patterns of Husbands and Wives and Family Income Distribution in Italy (1977-1998)


  • Del Boca, Daniela

    () (University of Turin)

  • Pasqua, Silvia

    () (University of Turin)


The pattern of employment among men and women has changed remarkably over the past decades. While the employment rate of women has risen, that of men has continued to decline. Disproportionate growth in the participation in the labor market of women with highincome husbands has heightened concerns that wives’ earnings may increase income inequality among married couples. Questions about the implications for income distribution have also been raised, especially in countries like Italy, the UK, and the US, where more noticeable growth of income inequality during the last decade has accompanied changes in employment levels. In this paper we attempt to measure the impact of the changes of women and men’s employment patterns on the distribution of income among Italian households. Using microdata from the Historical Archive of the Bank of Italy Survey of Household Income and Wealth (SHIW), a repeated cross-sectional survey that covers the period 1977-1998, we examine the impact of employment changes on inequality in family income distribution and how this relationship has changed over time and across regions. Our preliminary results show that the increase in the employment of women during the period of observation had the effect of reducing inequality in family incomes, while the decline in men's employment had the opposite effect. The equalizing impact of wives' work on income inequality has become increasingly important over time and has been greater among Northern households. Especially since the mid-nineties, wives' earnings have reduced inequality in as much as the distribution of income would have been less equal in their absence. More conclusive results could be achieved by analyzing a more structural approach where the labor supply of husbands and that of wives are determined simultaneously.

Suggested Citation

  • Del Boca, Daniela & Pasqua, Silvia, 2002. "Employment Patterns of Husbands and Wives and Family Income Distribution in Italy (1977-1998)," IZA Discussion Papers 489, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp489

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    Cited by:

    1. Kimhi, Ayal, 2011. "Can Female Non-Farm Labor Income Reduce Income Inequality? Evidence from Rural Southern Ethiopia," 2011 International Congress, August 30-September 2, 2011, Zurich, Switzerland 114756, European Association of Agricultural Economists.
    2. Patricia Gallego-Granados & Johannes Geyer, 2015. "Distributional and Behavioral Effects of the Gender Wage Gap," SOEPpapers on Multidisciplinary Panel Data Research 753, DIW Berlin, The German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP).
    3. Kristian Orsini & Antje Mertens & Felix Büchel, 2003. "Is Mothers Employment an Effective Means to Fight Family Poverty? Empirical Evidence from Seven European Countries," LIS Working papers 363, LIS Cross-National Data Center in Luxembourg.
    4. Roy Cerqueti & Marcel Ausloos, 2015. "Statistical assessment of regional wealth inequalities: the Italian case," Quality & Quantity: International Journal of Methodology, Springer, vol. 49(6), pages 2307-2323, November.
    5. Raymundo M. Campos-Vázquez & Andrés Hincapié & Ruben Irvin Rojas-Valdés, 2012. "Family Income Inequality and the Role of Married Females' Earnings in Mexico: 1988-2010," Latin American Journal of Economics-formerly Cuadernos de Economía, Instituto de Economía. Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile., vol. 49(1), pages 67-98, May.

    More about this item


    labor market participation; family income inequality;

    JEL classification:

    • D31 - Microeconomics - - Distribution - - - Personal Income and Wealth Distribution
    • J22 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Time Allocation and Labor Supply

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