While most recognize the economic benefits to families, many voice concerns about competing demands that upset the work-family balance.
Father may know best, but in four-out-of-10 American households, mom earns more.
Mothers are either the sole or primary source of family income in an unprecedented 40 percent of all households with children under the age of 18, according to a Pew Research Center study released Wednesday. The share was just 11 percent in 1960, Pew reports.
More than one-third (37 percent) of so-called “breadwinner moms” are married and have a higher income than their husbands, while 63 percent are single mothers.
The income gap--more like an abyss—between the two groups is significant, Pew finds. The average total family income of married mothers who earn more than their husbands was nearly $80,000 in 2011, compared with the national average of $57,100 for all families with children, and nearly four times the $23,000 average for families led by a single mother.
This trend is tied to women’s increasing presence in the workplace. Citing U.S. Census Bureau data, Pew finds that women make up nearly half (47 percent) of the U.S. labor force today, while the employment rate of married mothers with children has increased from 37 percent in 1968 to 65 percent in 2011.
About three-quarters (74 percent) of adults say that women’s increasing presence in the workplace has made it harder for parents to raise children, while half said that it is taking its toll on marriages. At the same time, Pew reports, two-thirds say it “has made it easier for families to live comfortably.”
The study also finds:
· The share of married mothers in households with children younger than 18 who out-earn their husbands has increased nearly fourfold since 1960.
· Married mothers are increasingly better educated than their husbands
· Single mothers who have never married skew significantly younger, are disproportionally non-white, and have lower education and income.
How does the public at large feel about this? While most recognize the economic benefits to families in the prolonged economic downturn, many voice concerns about competing demands that upset the work-family balance. While more than three-fourths (79 percent) reject the idea that women should return to their traditional roles, just over half (51 percent) believe that children are better off if a mother is home and does not work for pay. Only 8 percent respond similarly about a father.
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Donald Liebenson writes news and features for Millionaire Corner. He has been published in the Chicago Tribune, The Chicago Sun-Times, The Los Angeles Times, Fiscal Times, Entertainment Weekly, Huffington Post, and other outlets. He has also served as a marketing writer for Chicago-based Questar Entertainment and distributor Baker & Taylor.
A graduate of the University of Southern California, he is married with a college-age son. He also writes extensively about entertainment.