While still the minority among married-couple households, wives who outearn their husbands have become much more commonplace. According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, wives are the breadwinners in 29 percent of dual-income married couples.
Wives who earn more than their husbands were much more unusual 40 years ago. In 1981, just 15.9 percent of wives were breadwinners. By 2019, that figure had nearly doubled, but after years of mostly steady increases, the number of wives who outearn their husbands has plateaued. The COVID-19 pandemic has been especially challenging for working women, with many leaving the workforce or reducing their hours due to lack of childcare. Depending on how the effects of COVID-19 continue to impact families, the share of wives who are the primary breadwinners may look very different in the years ahead.
The earnings ratio—defined here as female earnings as a percentage of male earnings—among married couples varies considerably depending on their occupations. Husbands who outearn their wives by the largest margin tend to be in high-paying occupations, such as physicians or executives, whereas those who earn the least when compared to their partner are more likely to be in lower-paying occupations like teaching assistants or childcare workers.
When considering the occupation of the wife, a similar set of jobs emerges. However, the difference in pay tends to be more extreme when the husband is the breadwinner than when the wife is the breadwinner. For example, while the wife of a male physician typically earns about half of what her husband earns, a female physician is expected to earn just 10 percent more than her husband.
While wives are much more likely to outearn their husbands today than they were several decades ago, the share of female breadwinners varies on a geographic basis due to cultural and demographic differences. At the regional level, female breadwinners tend to be more common in the Northeast, where education levels are highest. Vermont and New York are home to the largest share of wives who outearn their husbands, at 36.2 and 32.9 percent, respectively. Utah and Idaho have the lowest percentages of wives who earn more than their husbands, at just 22.4 and 24.7 percent, respectively.
To find the states with the most female breadwinners, researchers at Self analyzed the latest data from the U.S. Census Bureau. The researchers ranked states according to the percentage of wives earning more than their husbands. Researchers also calculated the median pay ratio for wives earning more than their husbands, median earnings for wives earning more than their husbands, the median pay ratio for all married women, and median earnings for all married women. The pay ratio is defined as women’s earnings as a percentage of men’s.
The analysis found that in Utah, 22.4% of women earn more than their husbands. Out of all U.S. states, Utah has the lowest percentage of women earning more than their husbands. Here is a summary of the data for Utah:
- Percentage of wives earning more than their husbands: 22.4%
- Median pay ratio for wives earning more than their husbands: +60.0%
- Median earnings for wives earning more than their husbands: $54,000
- Median pay ratio for all married women: -50.0%
- Median earnings for all married women: $28,000
For reference, here are the statistics for the entire United States:
- Percentage of wives earning more than their husbands: 29.6%
- Median pay ratio for wives earning more than their husbands: +62.5%
- Median earnings for wives earning more than their husbands: $65,000
- Median pay ratio for all married women: -31.4%
- Median earnings for all married women: $40,000
For more information, a detailed methodology, and complete results, you can find the original report on Self Financial’s website: https://www.self.inc/blog/cities-where-women-outearn-husbands