Spousal Wage Gaps: Income Disparities in Couples


  • Sarah Winslow-Bowe

Document type: Encyclopedia Entry

Appears in: Work and Family Encyclopedia

Year: 2009


  • Changing Families
  • Gender
  • Income
  • Work and Family


  • Anthropology
  • Sociology


Among the greatest changes in work and family life in the latter half of the 20th century and into the 21st has been the dramatic rise in women’s labor force participation and educational and occupational opportunities. Today’s college student will find him- or herself surrounded by more female than male classmates; women also earn more associates, bachelor’s, and master’s degrees than do their male counterparts (Jacobs, 1996; National Center for Education Statistics, 2008). Women’s labor force participation rate has hovered at just under 60% for much of the last decade, up from 43% in 1970 (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2008). At the same time, women have made inroads into a broader range of occupations. The index of occupational sex segregation, which is the percentage of male or female employees who would have to change from their current occupation to one in which their sex is underrepresented in order to equalize the sex ratio across occupations, remained in the mid- to high- 60s between 1900 and 1970 but declined to approximately 50 by the turn of the 21st century (Padavic & Reskin, 2002). Correspondingly, the gender wage gap, the ratio of female to male wages, often expressed as a percentage, which fluctuated between 59% and 64% between 1955 and 1980, began to close in the 1980s and stood at 80.2% in 2007 (Padavic & Reskin, 2002; Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2008).

Link: Spousal_Wage_Gaps encyclopedia