Women Breadwinners and the Labor Supply of Their Husbands

Publication Date


Grant Type

Early Career Research Award


The author finds that approximately 21% of women outearn their husbands in terms of total wage income, but that figure rises when hourly wages are considered. A woman’s education is the largest predictor of whether she is a female breadwinner in a household in which both spouses work. However, in households in which the wife is the sole-earner, her education does not significantly predict the probability of observing that type of household. Instead, the largest predictor is the health of the husband. If both spouses have less than a high school education, the probability of observing a male breadwinner household increases, while the probability of observing a female breadwinner household decreases. The author also finds that predicted wages for husbands whose wives are breadwinners are higher than actual wages, and this is opposite for the wives themselves. However, the magnitude of the difference in actual versus predicted wages depends upon whether both couples work and the education level of the couple. The author also estimates labor supply equations, allowing for endogeneity of own and spouse’s wages. For women whose husbands are the breadwinner, labor force participation at the extensive and intensive margins depends negatively on husband’s wage, but labor force participation of husbands who are secondary earners does not consistently depend upon wife’s earnings. For women breadwinners, hours of work is much less responsive to changes in own wage.