Numbers, Facts and Trends Shaping Your World

In a Growing Share of U.S. Marriages, Husbands and Wives Earn About the Same



The American Trends Panel (ATP), created by Pew Research Center, is a nationally representative panel of randomly selected U.S. adults. Panelists participate via self-administered web surveys. Panelists who do not have internet access at home are provided with a tablet and wireless internet connection. Interviews are conducted in both English and Spanish. The panel is being managed by Ipsos.

Data in this report is drawn from the panel wave conducted from Jan. 18 to Jan. 24, 2023. A total of 5,152 panelists responded out of 5,715 who were sampled, for a response rate of 90%. The cumulative response rate accounting for nonresponse to the recruitment surveys and attrition is 4%. The break-off rate among panelists who logged on to the survey and completed at least one item is less than 1%. The margin of sampling error for the full sample of 5,152 respondents is plus or minus 1.7 percentage points.

A table showing American Trends Panel recruitment surveys

Panel recruitment

The ATP was created in 2014, with the first cohort of panelists invited to join the panel at the end of a large, national, landline and cellphone random-digit-dial survey that was conducted in both English and Spanish. Two additional recruitments were conducted using the same method in 2015 and 2017, respectively. Across these three surveys, a total of 19,718 adults were invited to join the ATP, of whom 9,942 (50%) agreed to participate.

In August 2018, the ATP switched from telephone to address-based recruitment. Invitations were sent to a stratified, random sample of households selected from the U.S. Postal Service’s Delivery Sequence File. Sampled households receive mailings asking a randomly selected adult to complete a survey online. A question at the end of the survey asks if the respondent is willing to join the ATP. In 2020 and 2021 another stage was added to the recruitment. Households that did not respond to the online survey were sent a paper version of the questionnaire, $5 and a postage-paid return envelope. A subset of the adults who returned the paper version of the survey were invited to join the ATP. This subset of adults received a follow-up mailing with a $10 pre-incentive and invitation to join the ATP.

Across the five address-based recruitments, a total of 23,176 adults were invited to join the ATP, of whom 20,341 agreed to join the panel and completed an initial profile survey. In each household, one adult was selected and asked to go online to complete a survey, at the end of which they were invited to join the panel. Of the 30,283 individuals who have ever joined the ATP, 12,442 remained active panelists and continued to receive survey invitations at the time this survey was conducted.

The U.S. Postal Service’s Delivery Sequence File has been estimated to cover as much as 98% of the population, although some studies suggest that the coverage could be in the low 90% range.1 The American Trends Panel never uses breakout routers or chains that direct respondents to additional surveys.

Sample design

The overall target population for this survey was non-institutionalized persons ages 18 and older living in the U.S., including Alaska and Hawaii. It featured a stratified random sample from the ATP in which Hispanic men, Non-Hispanic Black men, and Non-Hispanic Asian adults were selected with certainty. The remaining panelists were sampled at rates designed to ensure that the share of respondents in each stratum is proportional to its share of the U.S. adult population to the greatest extent possible. Respondent weights are adjusted to account for differential probabilities of selection as described in the Weighting section below.

Questionnaire development and testing

The questionnaire was developed by Pew Research Center in consultation with Ipsos. The web program was rigorously tested on both PC and mobile devices by the Ipsos project management team and Pew Research Center researchers. The Ipsos project management team also populated test data that was analyzed in SPSS to ensure the logic and randomizations were working as intended before launching the survey.


All respondents were offered a post-paid incentive for their participation. Respondents could choose to receive the post-paid incentive in the form of a check or a gift code to or could choose to decline the incentive. Incentive amounts ranged from $5 to $15 depending on whether the respondent belongs to a part of the population that is harder or easier to reach. Differential incentive amounts were designed to increase panel survey participation among groups that traditionally have low survey response propensities.

Data collection protocol

The data collection field period for this survey was Jan. 18 to Jan. 24, 2023. Postcard notifications were mailed to all ATP panelists with a known residential address on Jan. 18.

Invitations were sent out in two separate launches: soft launch and full launch. Sixty panelists were included in the soft launch, which began with an initial invitation sent on Jan. 18. The ATP panelists chosen for the initial soft launch were known responders who had completed previous ATP surveys within one day of receiving their invitation. All remaining English- and Spanish-speaking panelists were included in the full launch and were sent an invitation on Jan. 19.

All panelists with an email address received an email invitation and up to two email reminders if they did not respond to the survey. All ATP panelists who consented to SMS messages received an SMS invitation and up to two SMS reminders.

A table showing Invitation and reminder dates for ATP Wave 120

Data quality checks

To ensure high-quality data, the Center’s researchers performed data quality checks to identify any respondents showing clear patterns of satisficing. This includes checking for very high rates of leaving questions blank, as well as always selecting the first or last answer presented. As a result of this checking, four ATP respondents were removed from the survey dataset prior to weighting and analysis.


A table showing American Trends Panel weighting dimensions

The ATP data is weighted in a multistep process that accounts for multiple stages of sampling and nonresponse that occur at different points in the survey process. First, each panelist begins with a base weight that reflects their probability of selection for their initial recruitment survey. These weights are then rescaled and adjusted to account for changes in the design of ATP recruitment surveys from year to year. Finally, the weights are calibrated to align with the population benchmarks in the accompanying table to correct for nonresponse to recruitment surveys and panel attrition. If only a subsample of panelists was invited to participate in the wave, this weight is adjusted to account for any differential probabilities of selection.

Among the panelists who completed the survey, this weight is then calibrated again to align with the population benchmarks identified in the accompanying table and trimmed at the 1st and 99th percentiles to reduce the loss in precision stemming from variance in the weights. Sampling errors and tests of statistical significance take into account the effect of weighting.

The following table shows the unweighted sample sizes and the error attributable to sampling that would be expected at the 95% level of confidence for different groups in the survey.

A table showing Sample sizes and margins of error for ATP Wave 120

Sample sizes and sampling errors for other subgroups are available upon request. In addition to sampling error, one should bear in mind that question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of opinion polls.

Dispositions and response rates

A table showing Final dispositions for ATP Wave 120
A table showing Cumulative response rate of 4% as of ATP Wave 120

Annual Social and Economic Supplement methodology

The analysis of the earnings contributions of spouses in opposite-sex marriages is derived from the Annual Social and Economic Supplement (ASEC), which is conducted in March of every year as part of the Current Population Survey (CPS). Administered jointly by the U.S. Census Bureau and the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the CPS is a monthly survey of approximately 70,000 households that typically interviews about 50,000 households. It is the source of the nation’s official statistics on unemployment. The ASEC survey in March typically features an expanded sample of more than 75,000 households with about 70,000 interviews. The ASEC collected in 2022 had about 59,000 households.

The CPS microdata used in this report is the Integrated Public Use Microdata Series (IPUMS) provided by the University of Minnesota. The IPUMS assigns uniform codes, to the extent possible, to data collected in the CPS over the years. Read more information about the IPUMS, including variable definition and sampling error.

Marriages including a householder and spouse ages 25 to 64 were analyzed. The few marriages in which both spouses had zero earnings were dropped. Under these restrictions, the number of unweighted marriages analyzed was 19,552 in 2022.

Marriages were classified on the basis of the spouses’ annual earnings, which are the sum of wage and salary income, non-farm business income and farm income.

Household incomes are adjusted for the number of people in a household using the methodology from Pew Research Center’s previous work on the American middle class. That is done because a four-person household with an income of, say, $50,000, faces a tighter budget constraint than a two-person household with the same income.

American Time Use Survey methodology

Time use analysis is based on data from the American Time Use Survey (ATUS) covering the 2016-2021 period and conducted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The ATUS provides nationally representative estimates of how, where and with whom Americans spend their time.

The ATUS microdata used in this analysis comes from the Integrated Public Use Microdata Series (IPUMS) provided by the University of Minnesota. The IPUMS ATUS extract builder is designed to facilitate researchers’ access to use data from the ATUS. The analysis focuses on time use of married individuals ages 25 to 64 with spouses of the opposite sex ages 18 to 64. The wider age range of spouses aims to maximize the sample size. Weekly estimates of time in provision of care, housework and leisure activities are based on daily reported time multiplied by seven. Estimates of work hours are based on respondents’ reports of usual work hours per week.

Relative earnings are based on respondents’ weekly earnings and their spouses’ weekly earnings. Marriages in which both spouses had zero earnings were dropped. The ATUS top codes weekly earnings at $2,884.61. Cases in which both or one of the spouses’ weekly earnings were top coded and in which it was not possible to infer the relative distribution were dropped. Under these restrictions, the number of unweighted marriages analyzed was 14,758 from 2016 to 2021. After data cleaning and adjustments, the distribution of marriage types by relative earnings closely resembles the estimates using the ASEC.

© Pew Research Center, 2023

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  1. AAPOR Task Force on Address-based Sampling. 2016. “AAPOR Report: Address-based Sampling.”
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