She Earns, He Earns: Exploring Race and Class Variation in Wives’ Contributions to Couples’ Income

Sarah Winslow, University of Pennsylvania

In recent years, academic and public debate has arisen over which earnings pattern most accurately characterizes the present and future of American couples. This paper contributes to this growing body of literature by examining race and class variation in wives’ contributions to couples' income. Using the 2000 wave of the 1979 National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, I find that black wives are more likely to be co-providers or primary earners than are their white counterparts. While wives in high-earning couples are more likely to be co-providers than are less economically well-off women, women in couples in the lowest income quartile are more likely to be primary earners than are women in the top income quartile. The findings cast doubt on the accuracy of popular accounts characterizing superstar wives as high-powered, high-earning women; they also suggest caution in interpreting relative economic gains among women as signaling absolute progress toward eliminating inequality.

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Presented in Session 96: Gender and Earnings