This study examines the contribution of wives' earnings to the distribution of married couples' earnings in 10 developed countries. There is substantial variation among countries in wives' labor force participation, the relative earnings of husbands and wives, the distribution of earnings, and the correlation of spouses' earnings. Even though these countries differ on these dimensions, wives' earnings mitigate inequality in the earnings of married couples. For the countries the authors analyzed over time, the labor force participation of wives married to high-earning husbands increased more than the labor force participation of wives married to middle-earning men. Despite this trend, the mitigating effect of wives' earnings actually increased slightly in all countries examined. Moreover, all other things equal, the correlation of spouses' earnings would have to experience an unprecedented increase in order for wives' earnings to become disequalizing.
Originally published in: Journal of Income Distribution, v. 8, no. 1, 1998, pp. 45-61.
This report is part of the RAND Corporation Reprint series. The Reprint was a product of the RAND Corporation from 1992 to 2011 that represented previously published journal articles, book chapters, and reports with the permission of the publisher. RAND reprints were formally reviewed in accordance with the publisher's editorial policy and compliant with RAND's rigorous quality assurance standards for quality and objectivity. For select current RAND journal articles, see External Publications.
Our mission to help improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis is enabled through our core values of quality and objectivity and our unwavering commitment to the highest level of integrity and ethical behavior. To help ensure our research and analysis are rigorous, objective, and nonpartisan, we subject our research publications to a robust and exacting quality-assurance process; avoid both the appearance and reality of financial and other conflicts of interest through staff training, project screening, and a policy of mandatory disclosure; and pursue transparency in our research engagements through our commitment to the open publication of our research findings and recommendations, disclosure of the source of funding of published research, and policies to ensure intellectual independence. For more information, visit www.rand.org/about/research-integrity.
The RAND Corporation is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis. RAND's publications do not necessarily reflect the opinions of its research clients and sponsors.