1/3 married women earn more than husbands – city connection?

A recent study by Statistics Canada of dual income households found that 1/3 of women married or living common law earned more than their husbands in 2003. This was up from 11 % in 1967.

Women who earned more than their husbands however did not make as much as men who were the primary earners ($41,200 compared with $57,800). 30% of primary earner women had a university degree compared with 25% of primary earner men and 21% of secondary earner women.

That 1/3 of women in dual income families are the larger income earner is a phenomenon of urbanization — city life. And urbanization is part of the transformation of the economy from one based more on resource extraction or manufacturing to one based on services, broadly defined (which includes much of the knowledge economy). The service economy takes place in cities.

City culture levels the playing field between men and women in their careers, arguably. First, knowledge based jobs require creative thought, multi-tasking, organizational skills, communications proficiency and even team building — things women tend to be good at (not necessarily superior to men — that’s another argument — but at least on an equal playing field). Second, cities allow for more economic specialization — food preparation, house cleaning, and some child care can be done by someone other than a family member. Third, if so chosen, families can live in townhouses or condominiums that require less maintenance than a house.

All of this suggests that the trend toward women’s earnings approaching those of their husbands will continue.


  1. Penelope Trunk says:

    I was surprised to read these statistics. And it’s interesting that it’s happening in cities and not suburbs.

    But I don’t think the trend toward women earning the same as men will continue –it’s basically plateaued because so many women are taking a break from the workforce to take care of kids.

    So what the statistics about women making more than men show is that how much women are getting ripped off in divroce court: Women start out making more than men, but, according to a researcher at Catalyst Group, there few settlements compensate women failry for the earning power they give up to stay home with kids, even if it’s for a short period of time.

    Big-and-unjustified-leap conclusion: Women in cities get worse divorce settlements than other women.

  2. Wendy Waters says:

    Thanks for the comments. Women on average are not making as much as men. This study just showed that in dual income families, 1/3 of women made more than their husbands — if the world were equal that ratio would be 1/2.

    As you say, women lose career wise to take care of kids, which is why 2/3 of women in dual earning households earn less than their husbands.

    My point was that the 1/3 is significantly higher than what it used to be.

    By attaching this phenomenon to cities, I include suburbs — the entire urbanization phenomenon. City growth is part of the rise of the service economy and knowledge economy — both of which require concentrations of people and talent to thrive.

    I’ll have to check the stats to see what percentage of single-women-headed households make more than the average single male. But I’d bet it is less than 1/3.

  3. Maximus says:

    I would like to see a continuation of the topic

  4. Elizabeth says:

    FYI, here’s the comparable US statistics:

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