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Women Work Harder, Earn More, Than Their Moms

Women today are working harder and earning more money than their mothers at the same age, and that’s helped some of the nation’s poorest families move up the economic ladder.

Still, a new Pew Charitable Trusts report finds that men’s earnings continue to be the more important factor in bulking up the family paycheck.

“Family economic mobility continues to be driven by the earnings of men, despite (the) significant gains women have made,” said Diana Elliott, a research officer with Pew’s Economic Mobility project.

Women today work harder and earn more money than their mothers at the same age.
Women today work harder and earn more money than their mothers at the same age, but men's paychecks still play a more important role in economic mobility. Here, Linnette Gomez helps Lidia Ester as she shops for a computer at a Best Buy store Sept 15, 2009, in Miami. Joe Raedle / Getty Images

In addition, today’s daughters still haven’t caught up with their fathers. The researchers found that the median — or midpoint — of hourly wages for working women today is still lower than it was for their fathers, after adjusting for inflation.

That’s true at every rung of the economic ladder, Elliott said, and it wasn’t true of sons.

Pew’s analysis of government data finds that working women who were around age 40 in the 2000s earn nearly three times as much as working women who were around age 40 in the late 1960s and early 1970s, after adjusting for inflation.

That’s partly because the current generation of prime-age working women are putting in longer hours than their mothers — an average of 34 hours a week compared to 24 hours in the previous generation.

It’s also because they are earning more money. The current generation is earning $19 an hour on average, as compared to an inflation-adjusted $10 an hour for the women in the past generation.

That extra time women are spending at work lets some families keep their place on the economic ladder, the researchers found.

Elliott said it had the most significant effect on boosting the nation’s poorest families.

“The biggest movement upward was among those that were starting at the bottom,” Elliott said.