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Updated on Wednesday, June 9, 2021
It’s becoming increasingly common for households to have more than one income earner. From 2010 to 2019 (the latest available federal data), the percentage of dual-income households rose from 51.9% to 53.3%.
While we don’t quite know the full impact of the COVID-19 crisis on dual-income households, more households were becoming dual income in the past decade.
The latest MagnifyMoney study looked at the 100 largest U.S. cities by the number of families to see which places have the highest percentage of dual-income earners. There isn’t too much diversity in the cities with the most dual-income households, as California and Texas filled nine of the top 10 spots.
- Key findings
- More than 50% of U.S. households are dual income
- Dual-income households powered by California, Texas
- Cities with fewest dual-income households more spread out
- Full rankings
- How do overall household income averages compare to earnings in dual-income households?
- More than 50% of U.S. households are dual income. In 2019 — the latest available nationwide data — 53.3% of households are dual income, up from 51.9% in 2010.
- Santa Ana, Calif., has the highest percentage of dual-income households among the 100 cities analyzed.1% of households in the California city are dual income. But dual-income households here earn an average of $104,345, far below the average across the 100 cities of $136,423.
- There’s a wide gap in the percentage of dual-income households across the 100 cities. In Toledo, Ohio, 20.3% of households are dual income — lowest in the study. That means dual-income households are nearly 2.8 times more common in Santa Ana than in Toledo.
- In the cities with the largest percentage of dual-income households, incomes don’t stray far from the average household income. In Santa Ana, dual-income households earn 1.19 times more than overall households, on average, in the same city. In Toledo, dual-income households earn 1.82 times more.
More than 50% of U.S. households are dual income
More than half of U.S. households (53.3%) were dual income in 2019, up from 51.9% in 2010.
This rise may be partly due to the Great Recession that began in late 2007 and lasted until June 2009. A report at the time from the Economic Policy Institute said the Class of 2010 was staring down the worst job market in at least 25 years.
Many young adults struggled to find work during this period, which would have impacted their ability to pay down their student debt and save for their futures. Having a second earner in the household may have made playing catch-up a lot more doable.
More and more families need two earners to remain in the middle class, Mangla says. As housing and child care costs have continued to increase, wages have remained relatively flat.
“However, at the more affluent end of the spectrum, often the desire to maintain a certain lifestyle pushes couples to earn dual incomes at the expense of time,” Mangla notes.
Amid the pandemic, is the number of dual-income households still on the rise?
Since the data available surrounding dual-income households ended in 2019, it’s too soon to identify how the pandemic has affected the number of dual-income households.
While the amount of dual-income households dropped steeply in April 2020 (when the pandemic came into focus), the number of dual-income households eventually bounced back close to pre-pandemic rates as of February 2021.
Dual-income households powered by California, Texas
Sunny Santa Ana, Calif. had the highest percentage of dual-income households among the 100 cities analyzed. California, in general, had a strong presence on this list, taking five of the top 10 slots.
|Cities with highest percentage of dual-income households|
|1||Santa Ana, Calif.||56.1%|
|9||Santa Clarita, Calif.||44.2%|
|10||San Jose, Calif.||44.0%|
Santa Ana dual-income households earn an average of $104,345, much less than the average across the 100 cities of $136,423 — and less than half that of the $226,157 average in Fremont, Calif., No. 4 on the list.
When you factor in California’s notoriously high cost of living, it’s understandable why dual-income are more common there.
The cost of living in Texas isn’t nearly as steep, but the Lone Star State still took four spots among the cities with the most dual-income earners.
A lower median income may come into play here. The median household income in Texas was just $64,034 in 2019. So while California may see more dual-income earners because of the high cost of living, Texas may see more to account for lower earnings.
Cities with fewest dual-income households more spread out
Across the 100 cities analyzed, there’s a significant gap in the percentage of dual-income households. For example, 20.3% of Toledo, Ohio households are dual income — lowest in the study. That means there are nearly 2.8 times more dual-income households in Santa Ana, Calif. than in Toledo.
But there is much more diversity among the bottom 10 — no duplicate states and representation from the Northeast, Midwest, South and West.
|Cities with lowest percentage of dual-income households|
How the cost of living can impact the rate of dual-income households is more apparent when you compare Toledo to Santa Ana.
Ohio has a lower cost of living than California, which likely explains why even though the household income average is just $49,323, a smaller percentage of households rely on a dual income than in Santa Ana, where the average household income average is $87,813.
How do overall household income averages compare to earnings in dual-income households?
MagnifyMoney researchers found that overall household income averages aren’t that far off from the average household incomes where there are dual earners in the cities with the largest percentage of dual-income households.
Dual-income households earn only 1.19 times more than overall households, on average, in the same city, versus 1.82 times more in Toledo. Among the 100 cities reviewed, New Orleans had the biggest disparity here (1.91 times). Here’s a closer look:
Average dual-income household earnings among the top 10 go as high as $226,157 in Fremont, Calif., which is significantly higher than what dual-income households among the bottom 10 are bringing home (only two passed the $150,000 mark).
4 ways dual-income households can budget their money better
If dual-income households are looking for ways to manage their money better, creating good budgeting habits can help.
- Communicate clearly. This is especially true if there are disparities where one partner earns significantly more. Set aside time to figure out a household budget that accounts for both incomes, shared expenses and how much you’ll put into joint accounts and savings accounts each month. If there’s a major imbalance in how much each partner is bringing in, align on addressing that.
- Figure out how to agree on shared goals. What are you trying to save for? Are you trying to pay off debt? As a couple, you need to agree to those together, and writing these goals down is important. “At the same time, it’s OK — and healthy even — to have individual financial goals as well,” Mangla says.
- Consider meeting with a financial advisor or planner. You may want to work with a financial advisor or planner who can help you sort through your goals, budget, investment options and more. This can be especially helpful if you’re struggling to get on the same page as a couple.
- Make big and small financial decisions together. From choosing a new online bank to creating a plan to save for a down payment on a house, making decisions together as equal partners can help diffuse tension.
To rank the cities with the largest percentage of dual-income households, MagnifyMoney researchers used 2019 U.S. Census Bureau data to estimate the total number of households and compare it to the number of dual-income households. Researchers used the 100 largest U.S. cities by the number of families to rank the cities.
Researchers also analyzed the average income among dual-income households and compared it to overall average incomes to find where disparities appear.