More women now earn as much as their husbands, but still do more at home

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Few women will be surprised to learn that even when wives earn about as much as their husbands or more, a new Pew Research Center study finds that they still spend more time on housework and childcare, while that their husbands spend more time on paid work and leisure.

“Even though financial contributions have become more equal in marriages, how couples divide their time between paid work and home life remains unbalanced,” Pew noted.

So who wins what?

Pew found that in 29 percent of heterosexual marriages today, women and men earn about the same (about $60,000 each). “Husbands in egalitarian marriages spend about 3.5 hours more per week on leisure activities than wives do. Wives in these marriages spend about 2 hours more per week on caregiving than husbands and about 2.5 hours more on housework,” the study notes.

In 55 percent of opposite-sex marriages, men are the primary or sole breadwinners, earning an average of $96,000 compared to their wives’ $30,000.

Meanwhile, in 16% of marriages, wives outearn their husbands as the main (10%) or sole breadwinner (6%). In these marriages, women earn an average of $88,000 compared to their husbands’ $35,000.

Of all these categories, the only one in which men are reported to spend more time caring than their wives is when the woman is the sole breadwinner. And the weekly time spent on housework in those marriages is divided equally between husbands and wives.

In any case, it’s a big change from 50 years ago – when, for example, husbands were the main breadwinner in 85% of marriages.

Today, women who are most likely to be the primary or sole breadwinner can vary by age, family status, education, and race.

For example, Pew found that black women are “significantly more likely” than other women to earn more than their husbands. For example, 26 percent of black women bring home more than their husbands, while only 17 percent of white women and 13 percent of Hispanic women do.

But black women with a college degree or higher and few children at home are also among the most likely to earn about the same as their husbands.

These figures are reported against the backdrop of societal attitudes about who should earn more and how caregiving should be shared between spouses.

Nearly half of Americans (48%) in the Pew poll said husbands would prefer to earn more than their wives, while 13% said men would prefer their wives to earn about as much as they do.

What do women want? Twenty-two percent of Americans said most women want a husband who earns more, while 26 percent said most would want a man who earns about the same.

Meanwhile, when it comes to having a family, 77% said children are better off when both parents focus equally on their work and childcare. Only 19% said children are better off when their mother focuses more on home life and their father focuses more on work.

The Pew study is based on three data sources: income data from the US Census Current Population Survey; data from the American Time Use Survey and a nationally representative survey of public attitudes among 5,152 US adults conducted in January.

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