More women earning as much as husbands, but still do more at home, study finds

FILE - A toddler plays in the living room while his mother works on a laptop in the home office in a file image dated Jan. 20, 2021. (Photo by Julian Stratenschulte/picture alliance via Getty Images)

In a growing share of U.S. marriages, husbands and wives are earning the same amount of money. But despite this, new research suggests that the way couples divide their time at home remains unbalanced. 

In egalitarian marriages – where both spouses earn roughly the same income – women spend roughly 2 hours more per week on caregiving than husbands do, and about 2.5 hours more on housework, according to new findings from Pew Research.  

Husbands in these marriages spend about 3.5 hours more per week on leisure activities than wives do, the researchers found. 

In nearly a quarter (29%) of U.S. marriages today, both spouses earn about the same amount of money, Pew Research said. 

In the report, "primary breadwinner" refers to a marriage in which one earns more than 60% of the couple’s combined earnings, and the other has earnings. "Sole breadwinner" was defined as a marriage in which one spouse has positive earnings, and the other has none.

Just over half (55%) of marriages today have a husband who is the primary or sole breadwinner, and 16% have a breadwinner wife, Pew Research said.

When it comes to sharing the workload at home, the only marriage type where husbands devote more time to caregiving than their wives is one in which the wife is the sole breadwinner, according to Pew. 

In those marriages, wives and husbands were found to spend roughly the same amount of time per week on household chores.

Other notable findings in the report: 

  • Fewer husbands are the sole breadwinner today: The share of marriages where the husband is the primary or sole breadwinner has fallen steadily in recent decades, Pew said, citing the declining share of marriages where the husband is the sole provider.
  • Breadwinner wives remain in the minority: Few U.S. marriages (6%) have a wife who is the sole breadwinner, and wives are the primary breadwinners in 10% of marriages today, Pew said.
  • Earnings arrangements differ by demographics: Among wives overall, Black women, those with a four-year college degree, those ages 55 to 64, and those with no children are among the most likely to be the breadwinner in their marriage, according to Pew Research. 
  • What’s best for the kids? Pew research found that most Americans (77%) think both parents should be equally focused on work and home.Some 19% say kids are better off if the mom focuses more on home and the dad focuses more on work, while only 2% say a dad focused on home and a mom focused on work is ideal, according to the findings. 

These findings come from a new Pew Research Center survey and analysis of government data. The nationally representative survey of 5,152 U.S. adults was conducted in January.

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This story was reported from Cincinnati.