Marriage Advantages, Child Costs: Family Structure and Income Inequality among American Women across Birth Cohorts

Christine Percheski, Harvard University

Few studies consider how the income distribution of American women has changed, how women's incomes are related to their family characteristics, and how this varies across cohorts and population subgroups. Using Current Population Survey data, 1980-2005, I describe how inequality in women's total family income and the constituent income components have changed across cohorts born between 1946 and 1975 by race/ethnicity, education and family structure. I find that the marriage advantage in total family income has decreased across cohort, while the costs of single motherhood have remained stable. Women's income inequality increased because of cohort shifts in the population distribution and changes in the association of education and race/ethnicity with income inequality, but not from cohort changes in the association between family structure and income inequality.

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Presented in Session 21: Social and Economic Well-Being