In almost half of opposite-sex marriages in the US, women now earn at least as much or more than their husbands.

Nearly one-third of wives earn roughly the same amount as their husbands, while the woman is the primary or sole breadwinner in 16% of marriages, according to a Pew Research Center report released Thursday. Combined, that’s a record high and a threefold surge from 50 years ago, when four in five households relied primarily on the man’s income.

Lauren Schneider became the sole provider for her family when her husband Tom was laid off at the onset of the pandemic. Three years, a new house and one daughter later, the public-relations professional remains the head of the household.

Even when Tom felt prepared to get back into the workforce after a career change last year, the soaring costs of child-care meant it made more sense for him to care for their one-year-old daughter Ellie rather than accept an entry-level salary.

“We had a conversation about whether he wanted to go back to work,” said Schneider, who lives in State College, Pennsylvania. “Selfishly, I wanted him to stay at home but I left it up to him — he really enjoys being a stay-at-home dad.”

The decline in husband-led households takes place not only as more women enter the workforce, but also as they graduate college at higher rates than men, which often leads to better-paying positions.

“The labor market changes have been such that because women are getting more educated than men, they are finally ‘making it’ in greater numbers,” said Marianne Bertrand, an economist at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.

In heterosexual marriages where both spouses make roughly the same amount, the median salary is around $60,000. College graduates and young women, as well as Black women, are more likely to be in egalitarian partnerships.

Black women are also more likely to earn more than their husbands, as are women with a four-year college degree, women ages 55 to 64 and those with no children.

That said, the gender pay gap continues to affect income even in families where the woman is the breadwinner. When the wife is the sole provider, the family income tends to be almost half of that when the man is the only source of income. Dual-income families with a female breadwinner also make slightly less than those with a male head of the household.

That’s in part because married women make roughly $15,000 less a year than partnered men, based on Department of Labor estimates for weekly earnings.

The pandemic also made matters worse for many women, as some were forced to leave work to care for loved ones amid school shutdowns, child-care shortages and other family issues. At the height of the health-care crisis, almost half of all American women were out of the labor force — a trend that’s yet to be fully reversed.

Working wives also still carry most of the weight of unpaid labor.

In egalitarian marriages, women spend nearly 12 hours per week on caregiving and housework, compared to about seven hours for their male partners. They also tend to dedicate less time to leisure than men.

“This is a double-edged sword,” said Misty Heggeness, an economist at the University of Kansas. “Women are continuing to go out in the formal labor market and contribute in that way, and are still bearing all of the load and responsibility that disproportionately falls on them.”

--With assistance from Alexandre Tanzi.

This article was provided by Bloomberg News.