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Texas Cities Come Closest to Bygone Era of Cleaver Family Economics

FRIDAY, AUG 02, 2019

Single-earner households may have gone the way of car fins, rotary-dial telephone, and the Hula Hoop, but that doesn’t mean that supporting a family on one middle-class salary is impossible in all major U.S. cities.

A Social Explorer analysis of a new Census Bureau question found that three Texas metros ranked highest for the percentage of households that exceed the U.S. median household income with only a single earner. Fewer than one-third of U.S. families rely upon a single worker, according to the 2013-17 American Community Survey. More than 40 percent of American families have at least two members working to support the household.

Although single-earner families don’t constitute a majority of households in any U.S. metro, the West Texas city of Odessa comes closest, with 38.7 percent of households relying upon one earner. The median household income in the city, located in the heart of the oil- and gas-producing Permian Basin, is $59,528, about $3,000 more than the U.S. median.

The nation’s fourth-largest city, Houston, reported 36.7 percent of families rely upon a single earner to support the household. Midland, adjacent to Odessa, ranked third with single earners supporting 36.4 percent of families.


Number of earners per family in Texas. Visit to explore further.

The Stockton, Calif., metro ranked fourth, with 36.1 percent of families being supported by a single earner; Huntsville, Ala., where one earner supported 35.8 percent of families, was fifth.

Families in the Bismarck, N.D., metro area had the fewest single-earner households in the U.S., according to Census figures. Only 24.4 percent of families in the state capital rely upon a single earner. Sioux Falls, S.D., also claimed 24.4 percent of families were supported by a single worker. The Rochester, Minn., metro area had the third-fewest single earner families; only 24.9 percent relied upon one worker.

The ratio of women’s earnings to men’s earnings also was low for farming (68 cents), chief executives (75 cents), lawyers (77 cents), registered nurses (91 cents), and elementary school teachers (92 cents).

At least 10 percent of families in 93 metros where the median household income was above the national average required more than two earners to support a family. Slightly more than 18 percent of families in Honolulu needed more than two earners to support a household. In Kahului, Hawaii, and Salt Lake City, 16.4 percent of families included more than two wage earners.

Author: Frank Bass

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