Why Out Earning?

1466-1Yesterday, I threw out a quick link to a Pew study that found that more women out-earn their husbands than did in the past.

This study is getting a lot of press. CNN and NBC mentioned it this morning.

Yesterday, Ragtime bought up some important methodological questions. I have some other concerns about this study.

First of all, 22 percent of women make more than their husbands. That's not really all that big of a percentage. Really, the question should be why aren't more women making more than their husbands. 

Secondly, I want to know why women are making more than their husbands. Is it because women are taking higher paying jobs than they did in the past? Are they getting access to higher management positions that would have been barred to them in the past? If so, that's great.

Or is it because blue collar, male dominated jobs have gotten nailed in the past thirty years.

My brother-in-law is a skilled worker. He has an associates degree and specializes in using CAD. He works for a company that makes parts for cars. His wife is an administrative assistant at a hospital. A few years ago, he made more money. Now, she makes more money. Her salary hasn't gone up tremendously. His salary has shrunk. His company took a tremendous hit, because it is so tied to the economic fortunes of Detroit. He only works four days per week now, instead of six days like a few years ago. The whole factory shut down for two weeks over Christmas — no paychecks at all. 

So, I'm not entirely sure if this chart is good news or not.

6 thoughts on “Why Out Earning?

  1. This study is reporting 2007 numbers, so the current recession is not likely to be a major factor.
    Obviously, the percentage of either sex in higher management is tiny. My guess is that a finer grained study would show that (i) the number of middle-class, borderline white-collar jobs (e.g., store manager at Discount-Mart, asset manager at Nationalbank Loan Servicing) has grown in the past quarter century, and (ii) women and men compete on fairly equal terms in those jobs, leading to more equality in earnings.
    Sometimes reports of educational achievement are misleading. If a secretary has an associate’s degree in communication from a community college, and her husband did an apprenticeship in HVAC repair, she may be reported as having more education, but he probably earns more (and maybe knows more).


  2. And on the other end of the spectrum does a Ph.D. outrank a HD? Ph.D.’s take more years, usually.
    I think the Pew reports are pretty good, when you read the real reports, that they talk about all the different patterns that might underlie the statistics they show. But, the reports on the reports are usually dreadful (and Pew’s press releases sometimes contribute).


  3. I’ve been reading Richard Whitmire’s blog about the falling rates of college graduates among men for a few weeks now. Here’s one of his takes on the Pew study:
    He has an earlier post about it as well. I don’t agree with everything he says about boys and men and education, but I think he’s on to some interesting things. I’ve been concerned about the way my son is being educated for years. It’s like the system has given up on boys.
    I tend to think that your assertion that blue-collar jobs are gone is the right one. If boys are getting less education, that now puts them in line for really crappy jobs. Once upon a time, one could get a high school degree and go work in a factory. Those jobs don’t exist in most places.
    In my own sphere, most of the women I know make less than their husbands despite having the same or similar educations. My own household is an example of that. Despite having a Ph.D., even my administrative job didn’t pay more than my husband’s job as a full-time professor. Many of the women I know have master’s or Ph.D.’s and work part-time or not at all because their husbands also have advanced degrees and those jobs tend to suck up all the family/housework time, which *someone* has to deal with. Even the women I know that have full time jobs make less, because it’s a job with more flexibility or less prestige.
    But maybe the point is that the trend is up, which Whitmire would find alarming, but which we, as educated women 🙂 might find promising.


  4. I would like to see women get paid the same as men in the same field. Also, women tend to take on part-time work or flexible jobs after they have children, while men work traditional jobs. The problem is that part-time work and flexible jobs pay very badly. Employers are clearly taking advantage of women who require less hours and flexibility. I would like to see those jobs fairly compensate their employees. I would like there to be a greater supply of that type of work.
    In terms of the family unit, some say that power is money. If women make at least the same as men, then they have more decision making power within the family. They are able to leave abusive relationships and have greater security if the man leaves.
    In our particular situation, my husband makes a lot more right now. (I made more when we got married.) His larger salary means that his career gets priority. It’s not because he’s a big meanie who oppresses me. It’s just a reality. His salary pays the mortgage bill. Therefore, I haven’t been able to pursue every opportunity that came my way. Is this a tragedy? No. Does it bum me out sometimes? Sure.


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