Nowadays, women are much more likely to earn more income than their husbands do. But this is a shift, not a revolution, because very very few women are the kind of breadwinner that men used to be.
Using data on 18-64 year-old married wives (and their husbands*) from Decennial Censuses and the 2014 American Community Survey (via IPUMS.org), here are some facts from 2014:
- In 2014, 25% of wives earn more than their spouses (up from 15% in 1990 and 7% in 1970).
- The average wife-who-earns-more takes home 68% of the couple’s earnings. The average for higher-earning husbands is 82%.
- In 40% of the wife-earns-more couples, she earns less than 60% of the total, compared with 18% for husbands.
- It is almost 9-times more common for a husband to earn all the money than a wife (19.6% versus 2.3%).
Here is the distribution of income in married couples (wife ages 18-64; the bars add to 100%):
Male and female breadwinners are not equivalent; making $.01 more than your spouse doesn’t make you a 1950s breadwinner, or the “primary earner” of the family. (Also, you might call a single mother a breadwinner or primary earner, but not if you’re describing trends from a gender-equality perspective.)
* I forgot that in 0.5% of the 2014 cases the wife’s spouse is also a woman, so it would be more accurate to replace “husband” with “spouse” in the facts that follow.