Monday, December 20, 2010

The Birth of an Erroneous Statistic: How Many Wives Earn More Than Their Husbands

About a quarter of wives make more than their husbands in couples in which both work.

This figures is based on a study made just before the recession. Since the recession laid off more husbands than wives, the number may, at this moment, be closer to 1/3. In many of those couples, the husband is not working at all, though he is likely looking for work.

Historically, husbands and fathers work or seek work - period. Most wives and mothers, on the other hand, are more likely to trade off work, or more consuming work, against family needs.

Moreover, in cohabiting couples, she is likely to work more and he is likely to work less than in married couples. Mixing the two kinds of couples muddies the statistics.

A recent Reuters story, citing an unnamed "Princeton study," stated flatly that in a third of couples, she makes more than he does. The nuance of "married" and "both working" was lost.

I fear that this number - "She makes more than he does in one third of American households" - will take on an independent life, like the "50% of marriages end in divorce" myth.

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