Somewhere recently (I forget where), I noted that a number of companies are in effect using the U.S. Government to prop up its employee policies: low wages, lack of health care, etc.
I realize the argument is not a perfect one. Technically, companies are not required to keep their employees from starving to death, or dying from treatable medical conditions. But I doubt you will find many companies that make that argument.
In any case, I found an interesting living expense calculator (ht: NC). They are lefties, so they call it a living wage calculator. Some of their assumptions strike me as odd. Why does the transportation cost go up for a child? Presumably they can take the bus to school, and most times they are going somewhere they will be going there with their parent. Child care will vary a lot with the age of the child. But it is a reasonable starting point.
They then show the hourly rates for the area. To my mind this would be an excellent tool for someone thinking of moving to an area. Someone from the Northeast might pause before considering Wake County North Carolina if they realized that your typical construction worker is making $14.90 an hour, versus $24.04 in Middlesex County New Jersey.
In any case, it broadly shows why there are so many two income families. It is not (primarily) because of the women’s movement, but because people need to pay their bills. It also adds some security of cash flow in an increasingly turbulent job market. Granted two income holders have a higher net chance of a layoff than one, but their chance of zero income stream (both laid off simultaneously) is much lower. It particularly works well if you can team up a benefit rich job (government) with a cash rich job (construction).