In Recession, Wives Are Winning More of Families’ Bread

In 2008, the recession hit construction and manufacturing especially hard, causing unemployment in those largely male-dominated industries to increase dramatically. And retail sales have also experienced widespread layoffs, especially in motor-vehicle related sales and building/garden supply stores which are 79% and 65% male, respectively.

Women’s contributions to family earnings leapt during the first year of the recession, marking the largest single-year increase in the past decade, according to a recent report from the Carsey Institute at the University of New Hampshire. In 2008, employed wives contributed 45 percent of total family earnings, a statistically significant rise from 44 percent in 2007.

According to Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data, of the 7 million jobs shed during the recession, 72 percent were held by men. Overall unemployment dropped slightly to 10 percent, but men’s unemployment is at 10.5 percent while women’s is much lower at 7.9 percent.

But the gender disparity is not limited to industrial exclusion. In 2008, women’s median hourly wage was only 78% of men’s, or $4.38 lower. So, while women may be a larger part of the workforce (due to a bad economy), their wages in every type of employment continue to trail far behind those of men.

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