The entry of women into the labor market has been one of the most important economic and sociological changes of our time. Today, more than 75% of women between 25 and 55 are working, and more than 60% of them have children under 6. These changes have had a major impact. The proportion of 'traditional' married couples with one wage-earner and a stay-at-home spouse has fallen from almost 90%, to just over one-third. Dual-earner families, with both spouses working, comprise almost 2/3 of all married couples.
Many government policies, however, are a legacy of the time when households were assumed to be made up of a single breadwinner and a stay-at-home wife. A wife who enters the labor market is taxed at her husband's tax rate. If she is in a middle-income family, she can keep only about 35 cents out of each dollar she earns. The federal law controlling health insurance and pensions, designed to accommodate a full-time worker with a stay-at-home spouse, penalizes any other arrangement.
Celeste Colgan of the 'Women in the Economy" project at the National Center for Policy Analysis, takes a critical look at tax law, employee benefits, Social Security and a host of other institutions. She makes a compelling case that government policies-on issues from taxation to health care to retirement plans' must be overhauled because they were formulated during a time when the role of women in society was far different than it is today.