Changes in Wives' Employment When Husbands Stop Working: A Recession-Prosperity Comparison

Marybeth Mattingly, University of New Hampshire - Main Campus
Kristen E. Smith, University of New Hampshire - Main Campus


American families are experiencing the effects of the “Great Recession.” Most of the job losses are accruing to men, so families may find it strategic for wives to enter the labor force, or increase their work hours. We consider this possibility using the May 2008 and 2009 Current Population Survey, and compare findings to May 2004 and 2005 data, a time of relative prosperity. We find that wives of husbands who stopped working during the recession were more likely to increase work hours, and more likely to commence or seek work. During the Great Recession years, the effect for wives entering the labor force is significantly greater than during the earlier years of relative prosperity.