Family incomes are 28% lower when the breadwinner is female

Article date: 16 September 2013

UK families with female breadwinners have household incomes on average 28% lower than homes where the primary earner is male, according to research released today.

Data from Aviva's Family Finances Report* series suggests that the average annual income for male breadwinner households is £27,180 (£2,265 per month), but this falls to £19,620 (£1,635 per month) where a woman is the main earner. When both partners receive around the same income, this rises to £29,040 (£2,420 per month).

Evidence** suggests that women are the higher earner for almost a third of UK couples (31%) and two million working mothers are the biggest earners in their families, a rise of 80% in the last 15 years. Yet the Aviva data suggests that overall these households will have lower incomes and fewer financial provisions than their 'male' counterparts.

Debts also appear to be higher amongst female breadwinner households. The typical amount owed by households where the main income earner is female is £14,366, while for corresponding 'male' households this figure is £10,537 (not including mortgage debt).

Aviva Family Finances research also found:

  • Households where the main income earner is female have an average of £826 in savings and typically save £81 per month.
  • This compares to £5,259 (amount held in savings) and for £108 (saved monthly) male breadwinner households.
  • 29% of female breadwinner households have life insurance compared to 40% of 'male' households.
  • Female breadwinner households are more than twice as likely to have taken out a payday loan in the last year (5% of homes where women are the main earner compared to 2% where the breadwinner is male).

Louise Colley, protection distribution director for Aviva says: "There's been a steady increase in the number of working mothers and female breadwinners in recent years, yet it's sad to see that this trend is not always reflected in their earnings. Many families now rely on a single income, particularly when children are very young and childcare costs are high, and it's becoming increasingly common to see women taking on this role.

"If households have a single earner, this often has a knock-on effect in their ability to provide for their families and save for their futures. Therefore we'd urge these families to consider how they might protect this income in case of the unexpected, so people can be sure that their family costs are covered, whatever life has in store."

* Data was sourced from the Aviva Family Finances Report (July 2013), using findings from over 2,000 people who are members of one of six family types identified via Canadean Research.

** According to research into female breadwinners from thinktank IPPR.

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