The hourglassing of male income

True middle-income guys who might have married in the past are being squeezed out in favor of slackers and high achievers.  It’s an amplified version of “Yale or jail”, except it’s “xbox and living off your woman’s 35k/yr job or make 75k plus”.

Married men with SAHMs are making most of the taxable income, contrary to the narrative pushed about the “breadwinner mom”.  Direct from the very Pew data used for that narrative, the married man+SAHM household clears about 78k per year as the median, while the married “breadwinner mom” (plus husband with a job, carefully not worded that way though) clears about 80k per year as the median.  But because the “breadwinner mom” married households consist of two lower incomes and also get very favorable tax treatment for childcare expenses, they pay lower net taxes despite having a slightly higher gross income.  The American federal income tax system is structured to favor double-income married households earning about 75k who put the kids in daycare as far as tax breaks for broad swathes of the married population go.  It is not nearly so well set up to favor single-income married households as is commonly claimed because those households overperform economically and thus phase out of the tax benefits available to those married with children.

Needless to say, all this isn’t mentioned in any of the news articles riffing on said Pew data to declare the awesomesauce of breadwinning mothers.  But the current economic situation in America is that there’s a hourglass effect on male income, and female workforce participation increases aren’t sufficient to replace the lost male earnings, because as we can see from the jury-rigged comparison of earnings above, women just aren’t earning as much as men even if they earn the highest or the sole income for the household.  The result is a smaller and smaller number of married men who overperform and whose W2 wages provide the bulk of what tax base remains for the massive welfare edifice that the federal, state and local governments have built up in the last half century.

This hourglass effect is also mostly left out of the discourse on income inequality, along with its far-ranging effects on the long-term health of the current welfare state.  It’s also a pattern conservatives need to keep in mind when lamenting the decline of marriage and discussing ways to revive marriage as a social institution.

Advertisements