Women Today Earn Less Than Their Dads Did, and If Their Moms Stayed Home, They Marry Rich

What Women Really Think
April 2 2014 9:30 AM

Women Today Earn Less Than Their Dads Did, and If Their Moms Stayed Home, They Marry Rich

father_daughter
According to a new Pew study, women continue to earn less than their fathers did.

Photo by Carme Balcells/Shutterstock

The Pew Charitable Trusts released a report on Tuesday that looked at the economic mobility of women relative to their parents. It compared women who entered their “prime working years” (40 and thereabouts) in the late 1960s and early 1970s with their daughters, who hit 40 in the early aughts. The older generation worked an average of 24 hours a week at $10 per hour; the younger generation worked an average of 34 hours a week at $19 per hour. So daughters outearned mothers by a factor of three. Those gains were real at every rung of the economic ladder.

Not that one needs a Pew study to figure out that today’s women, as a group, net more than their moms did. Median wages have levitated across the board, and women continue their march into the labor force. The report finds that only 53 percent of mothers performed paid work between 1968 and 1972, compared with 85 percent of their daughters.

Advertisement

But women continue to earn less than their fathers did. (This is not true for men, 70 percent of whom outearn their dads.) And, the researchers say, “men’s wages remain more important to increasing couples’ family income,” despite “women’s significant generational gains.” This is unsurprising given a stubbornly gaping wage gap and the slow thaw of our belief that domestic responsibilities should fall more heavily on women than men. (Events like Monday’s Heritage Foundation panel, in which a table of speakers attested that depression rates for women have spiked because feminism has snatched us all away from our warm stoves and knitting, don’t help.)

The Washington Post’s Catherine Rampell had some fun with the findings, asking Pew to run the numbers in several different ways. She discovered that mothers who worked full-time were more likely to have daughters who also work full-time, whether due to transmitted values or economic necessity. Her weirdest revelation, though, was that daughters raised in families in which dad worked and mom did not boast the highest family incomes of all the daughters:

Women whose mothers didn’t have jobs have a median family income of about $86,000. Those whose mothers worked either full time or part time have median family incomes today of about $81,000 and $73,000, respectively.

Yet, Rampell explains, this is not because the daughters whose mothers stayed home earn any more money than their peers. They have just managed to marry higher-paid men. Could their household structure have taught them from an early age that well-compensated dads are crucial to familial flourishing?  

Katy Waldman is a Slate staff writer. 

TODAY IN SLATE

The Juice

Ford’s Big Gamble

It’s completely transforming America’s best-selling vehicle.

Should the United States Grant Asylum to Victims of Domestic Violence?

The Apple Watch Will Make Everyone Around You Just a Little Worse Off

This Was the First Object Ever Designed

Don’t Expect Adrian Peterson to Go to Prison

In much of America, beating your kids is perfectly legal. 

Moneybox

How the Apple Watch Will Annoy Us

A glowing screen attached to someone else’s wrist is shinier than all but the blingiest jewels.

Music

A Little Bit Softer Now, a Little Bit Softer Now …

The sad, gradual decline of the fade-out in popular music.

Is Everyone Going to Declare Independence if Scotland Does It? 

I Tried to Write an Honest Profile of One of Bollywood’s Biggest Stars. It Didn’t Go Well.

Trending News Channel
Sept. 12 2014 11:26 AM Identical Twins Aren’t Really Identical
  News & Politics
Jurisprudence
Sept. 14 2014 2:37 PM When Abuse Is Not Abuse Don’t expect Adrian Peterson to go to prison. In much of America, beating your kids is perfectly legal. 
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 12 2014 5:54 PM Olive Garden Has Been Committing a Culinary Crime Against Humanity
  Life
Inside Higher Ed
Sept. 13 2014 8:38 AM “You’re More Than Just a Number” Goucher College goes transcript-free in admissions.
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 12 2014 4:05 PM Life as an NFL Wife: “He's the Star. Keep Him Happy.”
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Sept. 12 2014 5:55 PM “Do You Know What Porn Is?” Conversations with Dahlia Lithwick’s 11-year-old son.
  Arts
Music
Sept. 14 2014 11:44 PM A Little Bit Softer Now, a Little Bit Softer Now … The sad, gradual decline of the fade-out in popular music.
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 12 2014 3:53 PM We Need to Pass Legislation on Artificial Intelligence Early and Often
  Health & Science
New Scientist
Sept. 14 2014 8:38 AM Scientific Misconduct Should Be a Crime It’s as bad as fraud or theft, only potentially more dangerous.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 12 2014 4:36 PM “There’s No Tolerance for That” Pete Carroll and Jim Harbaugh say they don’t abide domestic abuse. So why do the Seahawks and 49ers have a combined six players accused of violence against women?