Does It Pay Both Spouses to Work?

Policy Reports | Taxes

No. 260
Wednesday, May 14, 2003
by Jagadeesh Gokhale and Laurence J. Kotlikoff


  1. See Rudolph Penner, "Social Security and Women," in Celeste Colgan, ed., Women's Agenda (Dallas, Texas: National Center for Policy Analysis, 2002).
  2. "The 2001 Annual Report of the Boards of Trustees of the Federal Old-Age and Survivors Insurance and Disability Insurance Trust Funds," Table V, A3.
  3. In 2001, 34 percent of women aged 62 or older received a benefit based solely on their husband's earnings record in 2001. If they paid payroll taxes during their working years, they did not work enough to qualify for a Social Security benefits. An additional 28 percent of women qualified for a Social Security benefit in their own right, but instead chose to take a benefit based on their husband's earnings, presumably because the benefit was larger. Thus, up to 62 percent of female beneficiaries got no extra benefit in return for the taxes they paid. Social Security Administration, "Fast Facts and Figures About Social Security," 2002, page 22.
  4. This section is based largely on Jagadeesh Gokhale, Laurence Kotlikoff and Alexi Sluchynsky, "Does It Pay to Work?" NCPA Policy Report No. 258, March 2003, National Center for Policy Analysis.
  5. Laurence Kotlikoff, "Privatizing Social Security," NCPA Policy Report No. 217, July 1998, National Center for Policy Analysis, Figure IV, p. 2.
  6. Gokhale et al., "Does It Pay to Work?"
  7. Gokhale et al., "Does It Pay to Work?"
  8. A full explanation can be found in the appendix to Gokhale et. al., "Does It Pay to Work?"
  9. The results in this section are from Gokhale et al., "Does It Pay to Work?"
  10. A full-time worker earning the minimum wage of $5.15 an hour will earn $10,700 a year. When both spouses earn the minimum wage, their family income will be $21,400. If both spouses earn twice the minimum wage ($10.30 an hour), their joint annual income will be $42,800.
  11. An income of $32,100 is 1.5 times the minimum wage. An income 10 times as high, or about $321,000, is 15 times the minimum wage.
  12. Edward J. McCaffery, "Women and Taxes," National Center for Policy Analysis, NCPA Policy Report No. 250, February 2002, National Center for Policy Analysis.

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