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U.S. D E P A R T M E N T

OF

LABOR

W A G E AND L A B O R S T A N D A R D S A D M I N I S T R A T I O N
WOMEN^S B U R E A U
WASHINGTON, D,C.

20210

WORKING WIVES—THEIR CONTRIBUTION TO FAMILY INCOME
Nearly h a l f o f a l l women 18 to
years of age work i n any one month.
About 3 out of 5 of these women are married and l i v i n g w i t h t h e i r husbands.
Almost a l l of these wives contribute to family income* I t i s o f t e n the
w i f e ' s earnings that r a i s e family income above poverty l e v e l s , 2 / In other
f a m i l i e s the w i f e ' s c o n t r i b u t i o n raises the f a m i l y ' s income from low- to
middle-income l e v e l s . In f a c t , i t i s at the middle-income l e v e l that the
largest proportion o f wives are i n the labor f o r c e .

There were k2.6 m i l l i o n husband-wife f a m i l i e s i n the United States i n
March 1967*
(Table l )
I n 15 m i l l i o n of these f a m i l i e s , the w i f e was i n
the p a i d labor force.
In the husband-wife f a m i l i e s where the w i f e was an
earner, the median family income i n I966 2/ was
a year. In those
f a m i l i e s where the wife d i d not work, the median family income was $7,128.
The l i k e l i h o o d of escaping poverty i s much greater among husband-wife
f a m i l i e s when the wife i s an earner than when she i s not. Nearly 5 m i l l i o n
husband-wife f a m i l i e s had incomes of l e s s than $3,000 i n I966. Only 5 percent of a l l husband-wife f a m i l i e s f e l l i n t o t h i s income group when the w i f e
was i n the paid labor force; 15 percent, when she was^not.
Another l . k m i l l i o n husband-wife f a m i l i e s , i n which the w i f e was an
earner, had incomes between $3,000 and $^^-,999 i n I966. Many o f these
f a m i l i e s might have f a l l e n i n t o the poverty group except f o r the w i f e ' s
c o n t r i b u t i o n to family income.

An income o f about $7,000 i n I966 d o l l a r s i s considered a modest but
adequate income for an urban family o f four. Twenty-nine percent o f a l l
husband-wife f a m i l i e s had incomes below t h i s mark when the w i f e was a
worker; h9 percent, when she was not. Another 2.8 m i l l i o n husband-wife
f a m i l i e s i n which the w i f e was an earner had annual incomes of $7,000 to
$8,999. A large proportion o f these f a m i l i e s might have received incomes
below the modest but adequate l e v e l i f the w i f e had not been a worker.

For purposes of t h i s study, f a m i l i e s with incomes of l e s s than
$3,000 a year were considered to be l i v i n g i n poverty.
2/ This i s the l a t e s t date f o r which information i s a v a i l a b l e .




The hiigher the annual family income (up to $15,000), the greater i s
the l i k e l i h o o d that the wife i s i n the labor force.
The labor force part i c i p a t i o n of wives i n March 1967 was lowest (13 percent) i n f a m i l i e s with
1966 incomes of l e s s than $2,000, and highest (53 percent) i n f a m i l i e s with
incomes o f $12^000 to $1^,999.

The contribution o f working wives to family income i s even more sign i f i c a n t among Negro husband-wife families*
There were 3.2 m i l l i o n such
f a m i l i e s i n the United States i n March 1966,^ (Table 2) In 1.5 m i l l i o n
o f these f a m i l i e s , the wife was i n the paid labor force. The median family
income i n 1965 was $5,709 when the wife was an earner and $3,785 when she
was not.
Only 19 percent o f the Negro husband-wife f a m i l i e s had incomes o f l e s s
than $3,000 i n I965 when the w i f e was an earner. In contrast, when the wife
d i d not work outside the home, almost twice as many (37 percent) were poor.
Nearly 900,000 Negro husband-wife f a m i l i e s had incomes at or below
the poverty l e v e l i n 1965- They might have been joined by many o f the
3^0,000 f a m i l i e s w i t h incomes between $3,000 and $^,999, where the wife
was an earner, i f i t had not been for her c o n t r i b u t i o n to family income.

The pattern of greater labor force p a r t i c i p a t i o n among wives as fami l y income r i s e s was true for Negro husband-wife f a m i l i e s as i t was f o r
a l l f a m i l i e s . Only 26 percent o f wives i n Negro husband-wife f a m i l i e s were
workers when family income was below $2,000. But among Negro husband-wife
f a m i l i e s with incomes o f $9,000 and over, 78 percent o f wives were earners.

Another measure o f the c o n t r i b u t i o n o f working wives i s the number and
d i s t r i b u t i o n o f husband-wife couples according to the income o f the husband
alone. There were ^3*2 m i l l i o n husband-wife couples i n March 1967.^
(Table 3) About o n e - f i f t h , or 8 m i l l i o n , o f the husbands had own incomes
of l e s s than $3,000 i n I966. Another 17 percent had own incomes o f $3,000
to $5,000. Since only 5 percent of husband-wife f a m i l i e s had family incomes
of l e s s than $3,000 and only i k percent had family incomes o f l e s s than
$5,000 when the wife was i n the p a i d labor force, the r e a l c o n t r i b u t i o n
made by the working wife i s evident.
The p i c t u r e i s s i m i l a r among nonwhite husband-wife couples who are
nonfarm residents. There were 3.U m i l l i o n such couples i n March I966.
(Table k) Nearly t w o - f i f t h s , or 1.3 million^ o f the husbands had own

^ See footnote 2.
5/ Of these, U2.6 m i l l i o n were husband-wife f a m i l i e s and 676,000
were married couples where the husband was not head of the household.




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2

.

incomes of l e s s than $3>000 i n 1965; 68 percent had own incomes o f l e s s
than $5,000. But when the wife was an earner, l e s s than o n e - f i f t h o f
a l l Negro husband-wife f a m i l i e s had I965 incomes of l e s s than $3,000 and
about t w o - f i f t h s had incomes of l e s s than $5,000,^
(Table 2)
*

*

*

*

*

*

*

Just how much do working wives contribute to family income? According to a study made by the Bureau of Labor S t a t i s t i c s , the median percent
of family income i n I966 accounted for by the wife*s earnings was 22.2
percent.
(Table 5) However, when the wife worked f u l l time year rovind,
i t was 36.8 percent. I t was a l i t t l e greater among nonwhite than white
nonfarm f a m i l i e s : 2k,3 percent and 23.0 percent, r e s p e c t i v e l y .
I t should
f a m i l i e s where
f o r kO percent
such f a m i l i e s ,

be noted, however, that i n 22 percent o f a l l husband-wife
the w i f e worked at some time during the year, she accounted
or more of the family income i n I966. I n 38 percent o f
her c o n t r i b u t i o n was 30 percent or more.

The proportions were even higher among comparable nonwhite nonfarm
families.
In 25 percent of these f a m i l i e s , the wife accounted f o r kO percent or more of the family income i n I966; i n hi percent, her c o n t r i b u t i o n
was 30 percent or more.
The median percent o f family income accounted for by the wife*s earnings was highest (28 percent) i n f a m i l i e s w i t h incomes between $10,000
and $15,000 and lowest (6 p e r c e n t ) i n f a m i l i e s w i t h incomes of under $2,000.

^ Income data f o r nonwhite husband-wife f a m i l i e s are not a v a i l a b l e .
However, about 93 percent o f a l l nonwhite persons are Negro.
Note.--The figures i n t h i s study are from the U.S. Department o f
Commerce, Bureau of the Census, and the U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau
o f Labor S t a t i s t i c s .

Novembar 1968




- 3 -

Labor D.C. (VJB 69-63)

Table 1.--Husband-Wife F a m i l i e s , by T o t a l Family Money Income i n I966 and Labor Force
P a r t i c i p a t i o n o f Wife, March I967

Family income

Wife not i n
paid
labor force

Percent d i s t r i b u t i o n
Wire in
Wire not in
paid
paid
Total
labor force
labor force

1+2,553

Total
Under $2,000
$2,000 t o $2,999
$3,000 t o $'1|,999
$5,000 t o $6,999
$7,000 t o i8,999
$9,000 t o ? l l , 9 9 9
$12,000 t o $14,999
$15,000 t o $2U,999
$25,000 and over
Median income

^

Total

Wife i n
paid
labor force

15,005

27,51+8

100.0

100.0

100.0

2,1+68
2,31+0
5,319
7,617
7,872
8,298
1+,298
31 1 7
,++
809

330
10
^5
1,380
2,266
2,791
3,721
2,266
1,636
225

2,11+9
1,983
3,967
5,372
5,069
1+,628
2,039
1,818
579

5.8
5.5
12.5
17.9
18.5
19.5
10.1
8.1
1.9

2.2
2.7
9.2
15.1
18.6
2U.8
15.1
10.9
1.5

7.8
7.2

$9,21+6

$7,128

$7,838




U.S. Department o f Commerce, Bureau o f the Census:

35.3
13.1+
17.3
25.9
29.7
35.5
11.
+ +8
52.7
1+7.5
27.8

ik.h

19.5
18.1+
16.8
7.1+
6.6
2.1

The numbers were derived from the percent d i s t r i b u t i o n and may not add t o t o t a l s

Source:

Labor force
participation
rate o f
wives

given.

Current Population Reports P-60, No. 53.

Table 2.—Negro Husband-Wife Families, by T o t a l Family Money Income i n I965 ^
P a r t i c i p a t i o n o f Wife, March I 9 6 6

Family income

Number (in thousands) ^
Wife not i n
Wife i n
paid
paid
labor force
Total
labor force

Total

VJI

1,665

Iftider $2,000
$2,000 t o $2,999
$3,000 t o $»l,999
$5,000 t o $6,999
$ 7 , 0 0 0 t o $8,999
i 9 , o o o t o $9,999
$ 1 0 , 0 0 0 and over
Median income

U78
k21

832
611+
396
120
30k

$U,6l6

I2U
153
3U0
319
229
237
$5,709

353
266
19
^1
295
168
27
67

and Labor Force

Percent d i s t r i b u t i o n
Wife not i n
Wife i n
paid
paid
labor force
Total
labor force

Labor force
participation
rate of
wives

100.0

100.0

100,0

U7.U

15.1
13.3
26.3
19.u
12.5
3.8
9.6

8.3
10.2
22.7
21.3
15.3
6.3
15.8

21.2
16.0
29.5
17.7
10.1
1.6
i^.o

25.9
36.3
kO.9

52.0
57.8
78.3
78.0

$3,785

i V 1966 income data are not a v a i l a b l e f o r Negro husband-vdfe f a m i l i e s .
^ The numbers were derived from the percent d i s t r i b u t i o n and may not add to t o t a l s given.
Source:




U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census:

Current Population Reports P-20, No. I 6 8 .

Table 3.--Husband-Wife Couples i n the Population, by Income of
Husband i n I966 and Labor Force P a r t i c i p a t i o n of Wife,
March 1967

Income of
husband

Percent
distribution

Number
,
( i n thousEinds) —'

Labor force
participation
rate o f wives
36.8

Total

U3,225

100.0

Under $3,000
$3,000 to $U,999
$5,000 to $6,999
$7,000 to $9,999
$10,000 and over

7,992
7,139
10,000
10,1+62
7,671+

18.5
16.5
23.1
2I+.2
17.7

31.6
1 11
+.+
1+2.6
37.9
28.8

^ The numbers were derived from the percent d i s t r i b u t i o n and may
not add to t o t a l given.
Source: U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor S t a t i s t i c s :
Special Labor Force Report No.




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6

.

Table i4-.--Nonwhite Husband-Wife Couples i n the Nonfarm Population,
by Income of Husband i n 1965 and Labor Force P a r t i c i p a t i o n o f
Wife, March I966

Income of
husband

Number
.
( i n thousands) i /

Percent
distribution

Total

3,392

100.0

1,309
999
663
lH9

38.6
29.5
19.5
12.

Under $3,000
$3,000 t o $1^,999
$5,000 t o $6,999
$7,000 and over

Labor force
participation
rate o f wives

h9.3

1^5.8
U9.0
56.7
1+9.2

^ The numbers were derived from the percent d i s t r i b u t i o n and may
not add t o t o t a l given*
Source: U.S. Department o f Labor, Bureau of Labor S t a t i s t i c s :
Special Labor Force Iteport No. 80.




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7

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Table 5.--Earnings of Married Women (Husband Present) as a Percent o f Family Income i n
1966, by Selected C h a r a c t e r i s t i c s , March 1967 l /

selected
characteristics
T o t a l wives w i t h work
experience

Median percent of
family income
accounted f o r
by w i f e ' s earnings

P.^rcent d i s t r i b u t i o n of wives by percent of
Total

Less than
20.0

2 0 . 0 to
29.9

30.0 to
39-9

i+0.0 to
1+9.9

50.0 and
over

100.0

U6.7

15.2

16.1

11.7

10.2

Nonf{'.rm
White
Honwhite
Farm
00

22.2
23.2
23.0
2k.5
k.S

100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0

45.0
k5.2
k2.B
69.3

15.8
15.8
15.8
8.2

16.8
16.9
16.3
7.0

12.2
12.1
12.8
5.3

10.2
9.9
12.1
10.3

Year-round f u l l - t i m e workers

36.8

100.0

ll|.5

17.1

27.1

22.1+

18.9

Family income:
Under $2,000
$2,000 t o $2,999
$3,000 t o $U,999
$5,000 t o $6,999
$7,000 t o $9,999
$10,000 t o $lU,999
$15,000 and over

6.0
12,2
lU.l^
15.8
23.0
28.1
22.9

100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0

66.8
61.1+
58.2
55.3
U5.I+
35.2
i+3.5

6.9
7.0
9.8
11.8
15.5
18.1+
22.3

5.8
7.1+
7.5
10.2
17.5
23.1
18.7

3.8
6.1+
6.1+
9.3
12.1+
16.6
11.0

16.7
17.7
18.0
13.1+
9.3
6.8
1+.5

$8,767

(2/)

$9,993

$10,322

$9,973

(2/)

Median income

Data r e l a t e to the c i v i l i a n n o n i n s t i t u t i o n a l population.
^^ Not a v a i l a b l e .
Source:




U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor S t a t i s t i c s :

Special Labor Force Report No.


Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, One Federal Reserve Bank Plaza, St. Louis, MO 63102