"Breadwinner Wives" Are Still Losing

In the latest piece of "recession porn," the New York Times profiles a family in Los Angeles. The new trend, apparently, is the "breadwinner wife." Women are becoming primary earners in this "he-cession."

Phil Winkler, the Times reports, is 41 and out of work. They rely on his unemployment checks and his wife's salary from managing a dental office. Winkler makes extra money selling items on eBay. "We have to start practicing acting poor," Winkler said in the story. The Bureau of Labor put the unemployment rate at 10 percent for men and 7.6 percent for women.


But even if women are aren't hit as badly with unemployment, the family tends to be worse off — women still earn about three-quarters of what men make. My colleague here at the Center for American Progress, Heather Boushey, notes that that means wives bring in "just over a third-35.6 percent-of the family's income." To make it worse, the health insurance benefits are often tied to the husband's job, so some families decide to forgo health insurance. She also points out that the percentage of working women with unemployed husbands have more than doubled since 2007-from 2.4 to 5.4 percent.

Talking about the recession in terms of gender can be useful in exactly how unequal our current economy is. It's true that men are getting hit harder by unemployment, but women have been getting hit by lower pay, delayed promotions, and fewer benefits for decades. The recession makes it all the more clear that narrowing the pay gap would be good for everyone, not just for women.


With Dad Laid Off, Finding Ways to Hold On [NYT]
The Death of Macho [Foreign Policy]
Women Breadwinners, Men Unemployed [Center for American Progress]

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