The Impact of Dual Income Families on the Economy
An important impact of the current economic conditions upon today's American family is that of the dual-income family. Currently many families, my own included, need both partners to provide economic support in order secure quality housing, childcare and living conditions. I intend to examine the conditions that create the need for two income families, the effects, good and bad upon the children of such families, and compare the overall quality of life of the average dual-income family to that of the average single income family.
Today, there are more than 52 million, married families, units, in the United States. The dual-earner family is the most common, with 60% of all married families having both spouses working outside the home. For the group to which I belong, families with children, the rate of two working parents is even higher. Approximately 70% of the 24.7 million two-parent families in the United States report both spouses working either full or part-time outside the home. (Benokraitis, 1996). Additionally, a recently released Census Bureau report ("Fertility of American Women," 9/00) that showed that more mothers, especially mothers of infants, were in the work force in 1998 than ever before (73 percent and 59 percent, respectively).
The labor force participation of mothers has risen steadily since the Census Bureau began collecting data on the topic in 1976, so it is not particularly surprising to me that more women with infants are on the job today than in years past. Living in the suburbs has exposed my wife and I to the realities faced by today's family, that even for most of us in the middle class, the only way to obtain our hopes and dreams is for both partners to work. Perhaps more noteworthy is the finding that for the first time, dual-income families with children made up the majority of married couples in 1998. "The traditional family, portrayed as one with an employed husband whose wife stayed home to look after the children, has changed to a family with both parents employed outside the home and with children cared for by someone other than a family member," the Bureau reported.
The primary factor in the increase of dual-income families over the past 25 years has been the economy. Another interesting fact is that of the three main family units; married couples with the wife working, married couples with the wife not working, and female-headed households with no husband present, only the dual-income family group has have avoided a decrease in family income since 1970. (Cherlin, 1996)
Having two wage earners affects marriages in several ways. These include the quality of the marriage between the spouses, the division of household labor, and the quality of child rearing. The quality of the marriage can be strained if either spouse has a job with unsatisfactory work conditions or if the two partners disagree on spousal employment. If the...