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Women's earnings in '81 were 40% of husbands'

Six million wives - about 1 out of 8 in the nation - earned more money than their husbands in 1981, the Census Bureau reported Sunday. But the study said that on the average, women earned only about 40 percent as much as their husbands.

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''So it is still the atypical case in which the wife is the major contributor to the family income,'' the report said. ''But the number of families relying solely on the husband's earnings has declined substantially.''

The study, comparing wages white women and white men received in 1970 and 1980, found women's lag had grown by 1980 and suggested young white women could be victims of wage discrimination.

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