Male earnings inequality, women’s earnings and family income inequality in Australia, 1982 – 2007
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In the quarter century since 1982 male earnings inequality increased substantially in most industrialized countries, as did women’s participation in paid work. Both trends impacted on family income inequality. However, our analysis of Australian data shows the impact of changes in women’s earnings on family income inequality changed over the study period. Between 1982 and 1995-96 the growth in women’s earnings was concentrated in households with high male earnings, pushing family income inequality higher. However, after 1995-96 the growth in women’s earnings had a moderating influence on family income inequality as it was concentrated in households with lower male earnings. These findings contribute new evidence on the importance of trends in family formation and the correlation of husbands’ and wives’ earnings to the evolution of family income inequality. They also are suggestive of a dynamic relationship between rising family income inequality and women’s participation in paid work.