Cities Where Women Outearn Their Husbands

00 Businesswoman-FTKWR1
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__By Lauren Bringle, AFC® __

While still the minority among married-couple households, wives who outearn their husbands have become much more commonplace. According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, wives are the breadwinners in 29 percent of dual-income married couples.

Wives who earn more than their husbands were much more unusual 40 years ago. In 1981, just 15.9 percent of wives were breadwinners. By 2019, that figure had nearly doubled, but after years of mostly steady increases, the number of wives who outearn their husbands has plateaued. The COVID-19 pandemic has been especially challenging for working women, with many leaving the workforce or reducing their hours due to lack of childcare. Depending on how the effects of COVID-19 continue to impact families, the share of wives who are the primary breadwinners may look very different in the years ahead.

Chart1 The number of female breadwinners has plateaued in recent years

The earnings ratio—defined here as female earnings as a percentage of male earnings—among married couples varies considerably depending on their occupations. Husbands who outearn their wives by the largest margin tend to be in high-paying occupations, such as physicians or executives, whereas those who earn the least when compared to their partner are more likely to be in lower-paying occupations like teaching assistants or childcare workers.

Chart2 Husband s occupations with the lowest and highest pay ratios

When considering the occupation of the wife, a similar set of jobs emerges. However, the difference in pay tends to be more extreme when the husband is the breadwinner than when the wife is the breadwinner. For example, while the wife of a male physician typically earns about half of what her husband earns, a female physician is expected to earn just 10 percent more than her husband.

Chart3 Wives occupations with the lowest and highest pay ratios

While wives are much more likely to outearn their husbands today than they were several decades ago, the share of female breadwinners varies on a geographic basis due to cultural and demographic differences. At the regional level, female breadwinners tend to be more common in the Northeast, where education levels are highest. Vermont and New York are home to the largest share of wives who outearn their husbands, at 36.2 and 32.9 percent, respectively. Utah and Idaho have the lowest percentages of wives who earn more than their husbands, at just 22.4 and 24.7 percent, respectively.


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Chart4 Female breadwinners are more common in the Northeast

To find the metropolitan areas with the most female breadwinners, researchers at Self analyzed the latest data from the U.S. Census Bureau. The researchers ranked metro areas according to the percentage of wives earning more than their husbands. Researchers also calculated the median pay ratio for wives earning more than their husbands, median earnings for wives earning more than their husbands, the median pay ratio for all married women, and median earnings for all married women. The pay ratio is defined as women’s earnings as a percentage of men’s.

To improve relevance, only metropolitan areas with at least 100,000 people were included in the analysis. Additionally, metro areas were grouped into the following cohorts based on population size:

  • Small metros: 100,000-349,999
  • Midsize metros: 350,000-999,999
  • Large metros: more than 1,000,000

Here are the metros with the most female breadwinners.

Chart5 Small and midsize metros with the most female breadwinners

Large Metros With the Most Female Breadwinners

15 Nevada Las Vegas ENFCG2
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15. Las Vegas-Henderson-Paradise, NV

  • Percentage of wives earning more than their husbands: 31.8%
  • Median pay ratio for wives earning more than their husbands: +71.4%
  • Median earnings for wives earning more than their husbands: $55,000
  • Median pay ratio for all married women: -25.0%
  • Median earnings for all married women: $37,700

14 California Los Angeles-EFCXDH
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14. Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA

  • Percentage of wives earning more than their husbands: 31.8%
  • Median pay ratio for wives earning more than their husbands: +68.0%
  • Median earnings for wives earning more than their husbands: $71,000
  • Median pay ratio for all married women: -27.4%
  • Median earnings for all married women: $40,000

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13 New York Rochester-HFT1W3
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13. Rochester, NY

  • Percentage of wives earning more than their husbands: 32.0%
  • Median pay ratio for wives earning more than their husbands: +53.8%
  • Median earnings for wives earning more than their husbands: $65,000
  • Median pay ratio for all married women: -25.0%
  • Median earnings for all married women: $44,000

12 Tennessee Memphis-RB1T9J
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12. Memphis, TN-MS-AR

  • Percentage of wives earning more than their husbands: 32.1%
  • Median pay ratio for wives earning more than their husbands: +57.7%
  • Median earnings for wives earning more than their husbands: $60,000
  • Median pay ratio for all married women: -29.3%
  • Median earnings for all married women: $40,000

11 Florida Miami-WB8TXP
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11. Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach, FL

  • Percentage of wives earning more than their husbands: 32.1%
  • Median pay ratio for wives earning more than their husbands: +75.0%
  • Median earnings for wives earning more than their husbands: $57,000
  • Median pay ratio for all married women: -28.0%
  • Median earnings for all married women: $35,000

10 Texas San Antonio-G6NFFP
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10. San Antonio-New Braunfels, TX

  • Percentage of wives earning more than their husbands: 32.2%
  • Median pay ratio for wives earning more than their husbands: +65.9%
  • Median earnings for wives earning more than their husbands: $60,000
  • Median pay ratio for all married women: -25.3%
  • Median earnings for all married women: $38,000

09 Pennsylvania Philadelphia HE88C9
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9. Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington, PA-NJ-DE-MD

  • Percentage of wives earning more than their husbands: 32.2%
  • Median pay ratio for wives earning more than their husbands: +66.0%
  • Median earnings for wives earning more than their husbands: $80,000
  • Median pay ratio for all married women: -28.2%
  • Median earnings for all married women: $50,000

08 New York New York-DBC699
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8. New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA

  • Percentage of wives earning more than their husbands: 32.2%
  • Median pay ratio for wives earning more than their husbands: +71.4%
  • Median earnings for wives earning more than their husbands: $85,000
  • Median pay ratio for all married women: -29.8%
  • Median earnings for all married women: $50,000

07 Florida Orlando-EGFHBF
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7. Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, FL

  • Percentage of wives earning more than their husbands: 32.5%
  • Median pay ratio for wives earning more than their husbands: +58.8%
  • Median earnings for wives earning more than their husbands: $55,000
  • Median pay ratio for all married women: -25.7%
  • Median earnings for all married women: $35,000

06 Oklahoma Oklahoma City-PKJ0CA
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6. Oklahoma City, OK

  • Percentage of wives earning more than their husbands: 32.7%
  • Median pay ratio for wives earning more than their husbands: +51.2%
  • Median earnings for wives earning more than their husbands: $60,000
  • Median pay ratio for all married women: -29.7%
  • Median earnings for all married women: $36,000

05 Tennessee Nashville-EFTP63
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5. Nashville-Davidson--Murfreesboro--Franklin, TN

  • Percentage of wives earning more than their husbands: 32.8%
  • Median pay ratio for wives earning more than their husbands: +58.2%
  • Median earnings for wives earning more than their husbands: $60,000
  • Median pay ratio for all married women: -26.6%
  • Median earnings for all married women: $40,000

04 Maryland Baltimore-HE3FJE
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4. Baltimore-Columbia-Towson, MD

  • Percentage of wives earning more than their husbands: 32.8%
  • Median pay ratio for wives earning more than their husbands: +59.6%
  • Median earnings for wives earning more than their husbands: $86,000
  • Median pay ratio for all married women: -26.7%
  • Median earnings for all married women: $55,000

03 Virginia Richmond-EM4W20
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3. Richmond, VA

  • Percentage of wives earning more than their husbands: 32.9%
  • Median pay ratio for wives earning more than their husbands: +63.2%
  • Median earnings for wives earning more than their husbands: $74,000
  • Median pay ratio for all married women: -26.7%
  • Median earnings for all married women: $45,000

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02 Minnesota Minneapolis-J73XBX
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2. Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, MN-WI

  • Percentage of wives earning more than their husbands: 32.9%
  • Median pay ratio for wives earning more than their husbands: +58.3%
  • Median earnings for wives earning more than their husbands: $76,000
  • Median pay ratio for all married women: -26.7%
  • Median earnings for all married women: $49,500

01 Florida Tampa-TWN182
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1. Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, FL

  • Percentage of wives earning more than their husbands: 34.0%
  • Median pay ratio for wives earning more than their husbands: +63.0%
  • Median earnings for wives earning more than their husbands: $60,000
  • Median pay ratio for all married women: -24.4%
  • Median earnings for all married women: $40,000

Detailed Findings & Methodology

To find the metros with the most female breadwinners, researchers analyzed the latest data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2019 American Community Survey Public Use Microdata Sample. The researchers ranked metro areas according to the percentage of wives earning more than their husbands. In the event of a tie, the metro with the larger number of female breadwinners was ranked higher. Researchers also calculated the median pay ratio for wives earning more than their husbands, median earnings for wives earning more than their husbands, the median pay ratio for all married women, and median earnings for all married women. Only opposite-sex, dual-income married couples were included in the analysis.

Additionally, metros were grouped into the following cohorts based on population size:

  • Small metros: 100,000–349,999
  • Midsize metros: 350,000–999,999
  • Large metros: 1,000,000 or more

About the author

Lauren Bringle is an Accredited Financial Counselor® with Self Financial – a financial technology company with a mission to increase economic inclusion by helping people build credit and savings. Connect with her on Linkedin or Twitter.

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Written on February 4, 2021
Self is a venture-backed startup that helps people build credit and savings. Comments? Questions? Send us a note at hello@self.inc.

Disclaimer: Self is not providing financial advice. The content presented does not reflect the view of the Issuing Banks and is presented for general education and informational purposes only. Please consult with a qualified professional for financial advice.

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