Here it is again: Susan Gregory Thomas writing in the Wall Street Journal, starts with:
I’m one of the 40% of American women, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, who are the breadwinners for their families—that is, we earn more than our husbands.
Really? No. I don’t know why this keeps going around.
First, let’s set aside that “40% of American women” is not the same thing as 40% of American wives, since about half of women are single. Anyway, the Census Bureau publishes this in a table every year for all married couples (homogamous couples excluded, of course). Here it is, color coded, from 2011:
Source: Table FG3 on this page.
Even if you give half of the “within $5,000” couples to wives, they would still outearn husbands in only 33% of couples — and I’m not sure that’s a reasonable assumption.
This 40% thing might come from Liza Mundy, who wrote in Time that, in 2009, “nearly 4 in 10 working wives outearned their husbands.” Note: working wives. Lots aren’t. The figure here includes all couples, as Thomas said it in her intro.
I last reported this for the 2009 data. And a Pew report put the number of wives outearning husbands in 2007 at 22%. The facts do change a little now and then, but the details remain only vaguely relevant to some writers and editors.
(No offense to Gregory — I enjoyed the first half of her memoir on divorce, In Spite of Everything, which I just plugged for free.)