Michelle Smith: “Paradox: Women Earn More, but Families Get Poorer” – Money News

Posted on :Apr 07, 2014

By: Michelle Smith

Money News

April 6, 2014

Call it an American paradox. Women in the U.S. are working more and earning  more, yet many families are getting poorer.

In the early 1970s, only 43  percent of women earned wages compared to today when 6 in 10 women are working,  new research from Pew Charitable Trusts shows.

Women  in their prime working years are now earning nearly triple what their mothers  did.

A generation ago, women worked an average of 24 hours per week for the  equivalent of $10 per hour, contributing the likes of $12,500 a year to the  family income, Businessweek says the data show.

Today, the average woman’s work week is 10 hours longer, and at an average wage  of $19 a hour, she contributes $34,400 to family income.

Pew says these  changes have boosted “financial security and mobility” for millions of families  since 1970. But this picture of progress is “cold comfort” for poor and working  class families, because income for the bottom 40 percent of families is falling,  notes The Atlantic.

To be sure, the data show that all income groups  have seen their wages rise since the 1970s. However, middle and upper class  women saw their work translate into more gains in family income “because  marriage is alive and well,” The Atlantic explains.

Poor and working  class women are missing the benefits of pooled income. As marriage rates have  declined for these women, more have become single mothers, offsetting their  financial gains.

Men’s wages remain more important than women’s with  regards to increasing couples’ family income, Pew researchers found.

Another reason poor and working class are seeing incomes—and likely  marriage—decline is because men’s income has fallen as women were making gains.  And the problem has been most pronounced among lower-income men.

Money  still plays an important role in the sustainability of relationships, The  Atlantic reminds.

Husbands and boyfriends now have less dough to dish  out than they once did. Unfortunately, this economic erosion means that  lower-income men are less likely to be deemed worthy of marrying or retaining as  a spouse.

Also, adding to the paradox is that during the past 15 years  fewer mothers, married or single, are joining the workforce to cash on the  higher wages for women.

Many modern mothers do not work. Most mothers  who do work, don’t work full-time, nor do they want to.

The Atlantic points to a CBS/New York Times  poll, which shows 22 percent of women with children under 18 said they would  stay home if money were no object. 49 percent said they would prefer to work  only part-time.

That compares to 52 percent of fathers in the poll who  preferred to work full time even if money was no object and they could do as  they wanted.

Once the common storyline was that of women set to take  society by storm becoming the richer sex.

That momentum has long  simmered down; the gender revolution tapered off in the 1990s, says The  Atlantic.

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