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More wives are the higher-income spouse, Pew report says

"For so many years, marriage has been a way for women to enhance their economic status," said D'Vera Cohn, co-author of the Pew report. "Now, increasingly it's a way for men to enjoy economic gains as well."

The trends reflect both the advances that women have made and setbacks experienced by men, with the decline of manufacturing and other male-dominated jobs, experts said.

Only 4 percent of male high-school graduates had a wife who brought in more income in 1970. Now 24 percent do. Similarly, only 4 percent of men with "some college" brought in less income than their wives. Now 23 percent do. For men with college diplomas, 3 percent had wives contributing more to the household in 1970, and now 18 percent do.

"As women have brought more money into the marriage, their authority and decision-making power has grown," said Cherlin, author of "The Marriage-Go-Round: The State of Marriage and the Family in America Today." "But it's not that women are calling the shots. It's that husbands and wives are sharing the decision-making power."

The report noted differences by race. Black wives have a stronger history in the workforce and were more likely to be better educated than their husbands in 1970. In 2007, one third of black wives were better-educated than their spouses, higher than for the population overall. Among college educated black husbands, 26 percent have wives who make more than they do. For those with less education, the proportion of wives who outearn them is greater.

The authors did not present results for Asian and Hispanic spouses.

Marriage itself is in some decline, the report showed. In 1970, 84 percent of the 30- to 44-year-old group was married. Now it is 60 percent. Black marriage rates were lower, with 62 percent of African American women married in 1970, a number that declined to 33 percent in 2007.

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