Single-Income Occupations

It is much more common these days for couples in a household to both earn incomes than it is for only one of them to. Among couple households, both married or unmarried, about 82 percent of them were dual income. This is based on the five-year American Community Survey from 2016.

That leaves about 18 percent of couple households where only one partner earns an income. I wanted to know what the earner in these homes usually do. I also wanted to know if there was some income threshold that allowed for only one earner.

As is usually the case, the answers weren’t so clear-cut.

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Here are 485 occupations, as classified by the Census Bureau. This covers about 2.9m sampled couple households with a single income.

Single-Income Couples %

Find the percentage of households where each occupation provides the only income.

Income vs. Single-Income Couple %

Bring in median income. You can kind of see a trend of more homes when there is more income. It looks kind of noisy though.

Occupation Categories

Color the occupations by category, and it looks less like noise.

Wider Income Range

The range of possible income within a category seems to matter. Here are the categories with a wider range.

Middle Income Range

You see a similar upwards trend within the middle range.

Narrow Income Range

The occupation categories with the narrowest income range actually show the widest range of single-income percentage.

I initially approached this dataset with mostly high-income households in mind. The families I know who are single-income typically have the means. They can afford for one person to stay at home with kids or maintain the house. I expected a clear upwards trend that showed more income meant higher percentage of single-income.

This was kind of the case. For the occupations with a wider range of income, you can see the upwards trend.

However, for the occupations with a narrower range, other factors appear to be in play. Maybe it’s the cost of childcare that keeps one person at home? Maybe the cost of living tends to be lower, so a higher income is unnecessary? How does this compare with single-parent households?

Lots of other questions to answer. If only there was somewhere to download the data. If only.


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