NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Women In The Workplace

January 22, 1997

Myths about the influx of women into the workplace must be dispelled, says Robert J. Samuelson. For instance, he says that women did not enter the workplace because they wanted to make up for losses in their husbands' salaries.

The influx of working women began in the 1950s, a time when men's wages were rising rapidly and long before any slowdown in wage growth began.

  • Between 1950 and 1995, the proportion of wives with paid jobs rose from 23 percent to 61 percent.
  • Among the richest fifth of husbands, the proportion of wives who work rose from 45 percent to 71 percent between 1973 and 1993 -- an increase concentrated in the group that needs the extra income least.
  • In 1995, the median two-earner couple made $55,823 -- about 23 percent more in real terms than a similar couple in 1970, according to the Census Bureau.

Researchers say women work not only for the added family income, but because of changing attitudes and customs that favor a woman pursuing a career. Families also increasingly need two earners to maintain a middle-class lifestyle with amenities that were not commonplace in the 1950s, but are now.

Source: Robert J Samuelson, "The Two-Earner Myth," Washington Post, January 22, 1997.


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