Because the wives of highly paid men participate less in the labor force, the earnings of working wives make the distribution of pretax, money income more equal for families than it might otherwise be. Although there is considerable speculation that future developments in women's labor force participation may foster greater inequality, the empirical results are mixed. To assess the impact of women's labor force participation on the distribution of well-being, future research will need to consider the implications of taxes, job-related expenses, fringe benefits, and the value of homemaker services. Future research would also benefit from linking empirical research to an implicit sociological theory of family income-getting—one that recognizes the motivational structure of household decision-making as well as the changing environment that families face. Rising housing costs, poorer economic prospects of young men, and women's higher wage rates, for example, make wives' paychecks more salient, but family dependence on married women's earnings means secondary earners become a less viable way of coping with unemployment.

Keyword(s): genderincome

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  • Article Type: Review Article
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