This paper is concerned with analyzing one structural source of pressure for wives to contribute to family income. This is the “life-cycle squeeze”—the situation where a man’s resources are inadequate to meet the needs engendered by the number and ages of his children. Studies of how economic needs vary by family life-cycle stage indicate that one high point of need occurs when men are in their forties and early fifties. However, 1960 Census data on earnings patterns by age indicate that in only relatively high-level professional, managerial and sales occupations do average earnings peak at the same time family income needs are peaking. For most blue-collar and many medium- and low-level white collar occupations, median earnings are highest for younger men, and men at an age when family costs are at their maximum are earning somewhat less, on the average. As a consequence, the families of such men run the risk of a deterioration in their level of living unless an additional income is brought into the household.

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