WASHINGTON — Although the average two-parent family in 1988 had slightly higher earnings than in 1978 after adjusting for inflation, some of the increase was offset by added work expenses resulting from more mothers being employed, leaving the family little better off in purchasing power than a decade earlier.
That's the thesis of a research paper issued this week by the House Democratic Study Group.
The study says that because of various economic changes, including more foreign competition and the failure of American business to take the lead in new products, wages in the United States fell from $11.27 to $10.13 an hour (after adjusting for inflation) from 1978 to 1988.
This meant a "decline in the paychecks of (the) principal breadwinner," the husband in the traditional family, who had been able to support his family on his paycheck.
The falling wages threatened to produce a serious decline in family living standards, according to the study, but the income loss was made up by more mothers entering the labor force, bringing an extra paycheck into the home.