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What Do Female Breadwinners Mean for Your Business?

March 22nd, 2013 ::

By Rieva Lesonsky

Are you trying to target women with your marketing message? Then you’d better be aware of a demographic that’s grown in power since the Great Recession took hold: breadwinning wives.

The Great Recession was dubbed a “mancession” by some due to the large numbers of men who lost their jobs. As a result, more women found themselves the main breadwinners of the family. But an end to the recession hasn’t meant an end to the trend, reports Marketing Daily.  In fact, research by Kristin Smith, a research assistant professor of sociology at the University of New Hampshire, shows that the rise of the female breadwinner could be a permanent change.

Smith analyzed earnings data from the U.S. Census Bureau and found that in 2007 (pre-recession), wives with jobs outside the home accounted for 44 percent of total family earnings. Between 2008 to 2009, that percentage climbed to 46–the biggest single-year gain in 23 years. In 2010 and 2011, it was at 47. Overall, from 1988 to 2011, wives’ share of earnings rose by 9 percent while husbands’ share dropped by 9 percent.

Women were more likely to contribute a higher percentage of the paycheck if they were married to men with a lower level of education. For instance, women whose husbands had a high school degree or below contributed 51 percent of total family earnings in 2011. Women whose husbands had a college degree contributed 42 percent.

During the recession (December 2007 – January 2010 in this study), America lost 8.7 million jobs, with most of them in construction, manufacturing and other male-dominated industries. At its peak in October 2009, men’s unemployment reached 11.2 percent while women’s was 8.7 percent.

Smith believes that the trend toward female breadwinners will not only continue, but strengthen even as the economy improves. Why? She believes families will still need to make up for lost time and restore diminished retirement accounts and savings. As a result, more women will stay in the work force. Smith’s report did not take into account emotional factors like fears and worry sparked by the recession; if you consider those factors, the staying power of the female breadwinner seems even more ensured.

What does this trend mean to you?

  • If your product or service has traditionally been marketed to the “head of the household” or breadwinner, keep in mind that role may have changed. You may need to tailor your message to suit women or both men and women.
  • Since women typically earn less than men even in the same jobs, female-breadwinner households will have tighter budgets. Reach out to them with marketing messages about value, savings and smart shopping.
  • If both spouses are working, time will be at a premium, so one way you can justify higher prices is by focusing on how your product or service saves precious time that can be better spent on more important things, like relaxation or family.

Image by Flickr user DonkeyHotey (Creative Commons)

The views expressed here are the author's alone and not those of Network Solutions or its partners.

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