Impact of Married Women's Employment on Individual Household Member Expenditures for Clothing

By DeWeese, Gail; Norton, Marjorie J. T. | The Journal of Consumer Affairs, Winter 1991 | Go to article overview

Impact of Married Women's Employment on Individual Household Member Expenditures for Clothing


DeWeese, Gail, Norton, Marjorie J. T., The Journal of Consumer Affairs


The dramatic increase in married women's labor force participation has resulted in two-earner, husband-wife families outnumbering families in which the wife is not employed (Hayghe and Haugen 1987). In the past, wife's employment was viewed as secondary or intermittent but married women are now a significant and permanent part of the paid work force.

Wives' employment frequently leads to more dependence on the marketplace for goods and services as wives' time for home work and leisure declines (Stroker 1977; Vickery 1979). Employed-wife families appear to substitute one-use goods and purchased services, e.g., meals away from ome and child care, for wives' home time (Bellante and Foster 1984), but appear to spend less on at least some durables when wives devote more time to paid labor due to complementarity with wives' home time (Bryant 1988). In addition, the number of family earners may affect child-adult income apportionments, as well as service flows from market purchases and real income (Lazear and Michael 1980; 1986).

Clothing expenditures have been studied extensively, (1) but questions still exist about the impact of married women's employment on family members' clothing. Such information can be useful to producers and retailers in the textile and apparel industry. Heightened domestic and international competition has led the industry toward a strong marketing orientation, more dedicated to understanding and addressing consumer markets (Harding 1985) and thus to a need for more information about factors affecting expenditures. With rising labor force participation by married women, the industry has tended to focus on employed women themselves, often equating "working women" with career professionals, and giving limited attention to implications of their employment for other family members (McCall 1984; Retail Week 1978). Research on women's employment effects also can be useful to individuals who assist families with management and budgeting and to policy-makers interested in influencing household expenditures, as through incentives and transfer payments.

The purpose of the present study is to examine the effects of wife's employment, unearned income, and implicit wage (imputed value of market time) on individual family members' and household per capita clothing expenditures. Data from the 1980-1981 Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Consumer Expenditure Survey (CEX) are analyzed via tobit.

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It is well established that wife's employment increases aggregate household clothing expenditures when controlling for income and other variables (Dardis, Derrick, and Lehfeld 1981; Frisbee 1985; Hafstrom and Dunsing 1965; Hager and Bryant 1977; Norum 1989; Vickery 1979). Dardis, Derrick, and Lehfeld (1981) and Hafstrom and Dunsing (1965) examined how family clothing expenditures vary by wife's employment status (working/not working). Frisbee (1985) and Vickery (1979) focused on wife's employment hours (full- or part-time), Norum (1989) her occupation (white- or blue-collar), and Hager and Bryant (1977) and Vickery (1979) her earnings. Frisbee (1985) found that two-earner families, with the spouse employed full- part-time, spend more on clothing than do one-earner families. Norum (1989) found higher clothing expenditures with white-collar wives than with nonemployed wives (in spring and winter quarters), but lower expenditures with blue-collar wives than with nonemployed wives in all quarters except winter. Hager and Bryant (1977) and Vickery (1979) found a higher marginal propensity to consume clothing out of wife's income than out of other income sources.

Because clothing is one of the work-related expenses of women in the paid labor force, increased household expenditures for clothing sometimes are attributed to the wife's job-related wardrobe (Dardis, Derrick, and Lehfeld 1981; Vickery 1979). Drake, Ruffin, and Kocher (1983) and Nelson (1989) analyzed wife's employment effects on expenditures for the wife's clothing, work-related or not. …

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