Study shows education gaps between spouses, racial inequalities affect wives’ income trajectories

February 03, 2023

man and woman sit at a table, looking at a laptop - photo by Ron Lach, from Pexels

Photo by Ron Lach/Pexels

The education gap between spouses shapes wives’ long-term income trajectories, but the impact varies depending on the couple’s race, according to a new Western study.

For the study, Kate Choi and Patrick Denice, both with the department of Sociology, analyzed data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979 (U.S.) to document how much or how little wives contribute to couple’s total income during (and up to) the first four decades of marriage.

The study, published in the high-impact journal Demography, revealed that wives’ income trajectories differed significantly by race.

White wives were more likely than Black and Hispanic wives to continuously be secondary earners, meaning their earnings accounted for less than half of their family’s household income. They were also more likely to reduce their labour force participation following the birth of a child or when they have young children. By contrast, Black wives were more likely than white and Hispanic wives to continuously be the primary earner or contribute equally to the household economy as their husbands.

“Due to systemic inequalities that expose Black and Hispanic men in the United States to greater job precarity and lower earnings, larger shares of Black and Hispanic men may not earn enough to support their families financially so their families may depend more on wives’ income,” said Kate Choi, director of the Centre for Research on Social Inequality. “As a consequence, Black and Hispanic wives are more likely than their white peers to continuously work as a primary or equal earner.”

Read the full story by Jeffrey Renaud at Western News