Nearly a quarter of women out-earn their partner, but they still face many of the same workplace hurdles as their mothers

Millennial women might earn more money than their partners more often than boomer women, but many of the same problems persist. Compassionate Eye Foundation/Steven Errico/ Getty Images
  • Millennial women are more likely to out-earn their partners than boomer women, with 23% of millennial women reporting that they earn more money than their partner, according to data from Morning Consult and Insider.
  • Though millennial couples are starting to earn more equally, millennial women still face the same challenges their parents did, with a still-significant wage gap, limited access to paid maternity and family leave, and lower labour force participation rates than men.
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Millennial women are more likely than women of other generations to out-earn their partners, but for many young couples, equality is still far off.

A survey by Insider and Morning Consult looked at the earning, saving, and spending habits of 2,096 Americans, 1,068 of whom identified as women.

Of millennial women, 23% reported earning more money than their partners, while just 12% of boomer women said the same. While 82% of boomer men said that they earned more than their partners, 56% of millennial men said the same.

The survey didn’t identify whether respondents were in a same-sex or different-sex relationship.

These figures point once again to how money is changing within relationships for this generation. Millennial women are now twice as likely to out-earn their partners when compared to their mothers’ generation. As women start to earn more income, more degrees, and are more likely to be in the labour force than their mothers’ generation, millennial women are more frequently breadwinners when compared to women from other generations.

American women still struggle to earn the same as men

However, millennial women are still facing many of the same problems as women in their mothers’ generation, with American women on the whole still typically earning less, participating in the labour force less, struggling to save for retirement, and largely without access to paid family leave.

The most recent data from the American Community Survey shows that women earned a nationwide average of 19.3% less than their male counterparts in 2017, as Business Insider reports. When earning about $US0.82 for a man’s $US1, it can be difficult for women to save for retirement and live comfortably longer, reports Business Insider’s Tanza Loudenback. Consequently, found a report from the American Association of University Women, the average woman’s retirement account is about 70% of the typical man’s. As women live longer than men on average, the gap follows women throughout their lives.

However, the wage gap has gotten smaller in the past 50 years, as the median hourly wage for men has fallen for men and increased for women, according to data from The Brookings Institution. In 1979, the wage gap was about $US9 per hour, and in 2016, it was about $US3 per hour. The decrease is largely thanks to increased access to education and greater labour force participation in the past century, but the gap is still significant.

Another factor still holding women’s earnings back is overall labour force participation. Between 1962 and 2000, the number of women working or looking for work almost doubled according to data from the Hamilton Project, rising from 43% to 78%. In 2016, 74% of women were working, much lower than 88% of men.

While women’s labour force participation has increased, there are still quite a few factors keeping working women from joining and staying in the labour force at equal rates as their male counterparts. Limited access to paid family leave to care for children or older family members is a large factor. Most Americans don’t have access to paid family leave, including maternity leave – just 17% of Americans did in 2018, according to the Bureau of Labour Statistics.

There’s still a long way to go for true financial equality.