This report contains data on the annual earnings of husbands and wives and their combined earnings as married couples for 1981. Earnings data are presented using three important determinants of earnings levels: (1) annual work experience in terms of weeks worked and full-time or part-time employment, (2) occupation, and (3) level of educational attainment. Earnings levels of husbands and wives by age and presence of children are presented and discussed, and a table has also been included showing the number and characteristics of wives having higher earnings levels than their husbands. The data in the report were obtained from the March 1982 Current Population Survey (CPS).
The main purpose of this report is to provide specialized data on the earnings of husbands and wives that have not been available in the annual Current Population Reports, Consumer Income Series (P-60). The steep rise in labor force participation of women make this report's statistics increasingly important to understanding the distribution of earnings and income. The 20-year period between 1961 and 1981 saw the annual average number of women in the labor force increase from 23.8 to 46.9 million, compared with an increase for men from 49.2 to 63.9 million. About 67 percent of all married couples with earnings had a working wife. Overall, working wives contributed about 30 percent of the couples' earnings when both the husband and wife worked and 38 percent in situations where both worked year round, full time. Comparisons such as this and many others can be made based on the data in this report.
It should be noted that the data in this report cover 1981, a year in which the U.S. economy fell into a recession that lasted from July 1981 to November 1982. This situation may have had some effect on the relationship between the earnings of husbands and wives. Differences between the earnings of husbands and wives result from a multitude of factors, and because we have covered only some of the major determinants of earnings in this report, comparisons of husbands and wives earnings levels cannot be used to examine issues such as sex discrimination and differences in the monetary gains from education. Also, husbands and wives are only a subset of all workers. These kinds of analyses should be based on more detailed statistics from persons with similar educational backgrounds, degrees, specific occupations, and previous lifetime work experience.
Census statistics date back to 1790 and reflect the growth and change of the United States. Past census reports contain some terms that today’s readers may consider obsolete and inappropriate. As part of our goal to be open and transparent with the public, we are improving access to all Census Bureau original publications and statistics, which serve as a guide to the nation's history.