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August 2006
Vol. 7, no. 8

Perspectives on Labour and Income

Wives as primary breadwinners
Deborah Sussman and Stephanie Bonnell

  • In 2003, women were primary breadwinners in 1.4 million dual-earner couples—29% of all such couples. These women tended to be older and more educated than their secondary-earner counterparts.
  • In line with their age and education, primary-earner wives were found more frequently in managerial and professional occupations. They were also more likely to have a full-time job, work more paid hours per week, and have more years of experience.
  • Although most primary-earner wives earned more than twice as much as their husbands, their earnings did not match those of primary-earner husbands. Similarly, their average family income lagged behind.

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Deborah Sussman is with the Labour and Household Surveys Analysis Division. She can be reached at (613) 951-4226. Stephanie Bonnell is on leave from the Income Statistics Division. The authors can be reached at

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