Married American Women Make Less Money Than Their Husbands, Exit Workforce


Happy International Women’s Day: if you are a married and educated woman in America, you probably make a lot less money than your husband — a fact which might have prompted ladies to leave the U.S. workforce in droves, economists say.

Reuters reports that the Federal Reserve is set to release a new set of stats on this issue.

The Fed’s Findings? “Between 1993 and 2006, there was a decline in the workforce of 0.1 percent a year on average in the number of college-educated women, with similarly educated spouses.”

Surprise, surprise: economists think that pay disparities between wives and husbands might have something to do with this.

You might think that this number doesn’t represent a lot of women.

But compare this with the period between 1976 and 1992, when the amount of these women entering the workforce grew 2.4 percent yearly.

What this means: “The labor force in 2008 had 1.64 million fewer such women than if the growth rate had kept up its earlier trend, slightly more than 1 percent of the total workforce in that year,” Reuters reports.

An economist interviewed by the newswire identified a correlation between this and the decline of well-educated, married women going into the U.S. labor force to a “sharp rise in salaries for top earners in the United States, and in particular, for men.”

Back in 1975, college grads of both sexes made 43 percent more than non-college graduates, according to Reuters. In 2008, that figure ballooned to 92 percent for men and 70 percent for women.

“In the last 20 years, wages for highly educated males increased so much that they dwarfed the family’s second income, usually the one of their wives,” Stefania Albanesi, a study co-author who works at the New York Federal Reserve, told Reuters.

“The result was that sometimes married women exited the labor force mid-career, exactly around the time their husbands are promoted to more senior roles. They stopped getting income they didn’t need and so they left the labor force forever.”

This doesn’t bode well for the U.S. economy: When high earners stop earning income, this tends to slow economic growth.

(One note: This forthcoming study seems to deal only with straight marriages. But it does look like these numbers don’t just apply to top-earners — Reuters notes that this is also the case for households earning a household income around $80,000).

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