Female breadwinners more important than ever


The recession created a jump in women?s percentage of household earnings.

In a recession in which men constituted 72 percent of the 7 million jobs lost, it’s no surprise that female household members stepped up to fill the void.

Contributions by women to household earnings leapt during 2008 in the largest single-year increase in the past 10 years, according to a new report from the University of New Hampshire. Employed women contributed 45 percent of total family earnings, up from 44 percent in 2007.

Even more striking were household incomes among families living in poverty. In households living below the poverty line in which women’s wages already accounted for the majority of earnings, the share contributed by wives with children jumped from 51 percent to 56 percent.

The report’s author, Kristin Smith, a family demographer and sociology professor, says job loss in male-dominated industries like construction and manufacturing affected men’s employment more than women’s. “This increased reliance on wives as breadwinners will continue to shine a spotlight on changing gender roles in the family, equity in the workplace, and work and family tensions,” Smith says.

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