Two-Income Families

July 13, 1979

Report Outline
America's New Economic Elite
Wives in the U.S. Work Force
Impact on Families and Society
Special Focus

America's New Economic Elite

Increase in Combined-Salary Couples

Without them, the good life would be out of reach for millions of American families. With their help, families that otherwise would be struggling to make ends meet are enjoying $100,000 homes, $12,000 cars and $5,000 European vacations. Expensive department stores and exclusive restaurants count on their business. They are part of the reason for the upsurge in private school enrollment and the boom in real estate investment. Remove them from the picture and a sizable portion of the nation's buying power would disappear.

They are working wives, and today there are over 20 million of them in this country, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Two-income families constitute an increasingly powerful economic group. Working husbands and wives are generally young, well-educated, career-oriented and free-spending. There are 18.7 million working couples nationwide, and nearly one-fourth of them are between the ages of 24 and 34. Families with two wage earners working full- or part-time had an annual median income of $21,064 in 1978, or $6,037 above that of single-earner households.

With 49 percent of all married women now working, wives who stay home soon may become as unusual as women who worked in offices and factories once were. Last year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 58 percent of the women with school-age children were working; 41 percent of the mothers with children too young to attend school also had jobs. Columbia University sociologist Eli Ginzberg has called the employment of women outside the home the most important social change of the 20th century. “But its long-term implications,” he added, “are absolutely uncharitable. It will affect women, men and children, and the cumulative consequences of that will only be revealed in the 21st and 22nd centuries.”

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Women and Work
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Nov. 08, 2019  The Gender Pay Gap
Oct. 27, 2017  Workplace Sexual Harassment
Jul. 26, 2013  Women and Work
Apr. 14, 2006  Future of Feminism
Apr. 04, 2003  Mothers' Movement
Sep. 25, 1992  Women in the Military
May 10, 1985  Women's Economic Equity
Jul. 10, 1981  Women in the Military
Mar. 20, 1981  Equal Pay Fight
Jul. 04, 1980  Women in the Executive Suite
Jul. 13, 1979  Two-Income Families
Feb. 18, 1977  Women in the Work Force
Feb. 13, 1957  Woman's Place in the Economy
Apr. 22, 1944  Women Workers After the War
Jan. 26, 1942  Women in War Work
Jul. 13, 1926  Sex Equality and Protective Laws
Work and the Family