Moms bringing home more bacon in recession

As the recession continues, more moms find their earnings under the spotlight.

The Carsey Institute at the University of New Hampshire found wives in 2008 contributed 45 percent of total family earnings, a jump from 44 percent in 2007 and the largest single-year increase in the past decade.

The recession is having a negative effect on men and putting more pressure on women, says family demographer Kristin Smith, who authored the report. The recession caused huge layoffs in male-dominated fields such as construction and manufacturing, while expanding female-dominated fields like health services and education.

“Seventy-two percent of job losses are men’s jobs, so wives’ earnings are critical to keeping families afloat,” says Smith.

Whether temporary or permanent, the recession highlights decades-old changes. Women are working more, reaching higher education levels and their salary levels are rising.

However, the recession highlights decades-old problems too-inequity in the workplace and lack of policy support for families where two parents are working and juggling child care.

“Women make 77 percent of what men make, so families are suffering more,” says Smith. “When the primary breadwinner becomes the wife, who makes half of what men make, family earnings drop.”

With women accounting for almost half of the workforce and higher unemployment after the report data was collected, Smith predicted the trend “would go up before it comes down.”

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