America’s Attitudes About Moms Who Work

by Colette Moran

A Washington Post story on a Pew Research Center report released today focused on the fact that in nearly 40 percent of the households in America with children under 18, the mother is the sole or primary source of income. 

The report reveals a sweeping change in traditional gender roles and family life over a few short decades: The number of married mothers who out-earn their husbands has nearly quadrupled, from 4 percent in 1960 to 15 percent in 2011. Single mothers, who are sole providers for their families, have tripled in number, from 7 to 25 percent in the same period.

Also surprising is how many of the households in which the mom is the major breadwinner are headed by single mothers — 25 percent – and their marital status. 

“The makeup of single mothers has changed dramatically,” said Wendy Wang, one of the report’s authors. “In 1960, the vast majority of single mothers were divorced, separated or widowed. Only 4 percent were never married. But now, it’s 44 percent.” Now, 40 percent of all births are to single mothers, she added.

And while the story also talked about the changing attitudes that American’s have toward moms who work, some of the subtleties of the whole report were lost. For example, the Post mentioned that about half of Americans think it is better if the mom stays home, and only 8 percent think it is best if the dad does. But the story missed the other part of that survey question. The other option was “children are just as well off if the mother/father works.” Only 34 percent think children fare just as well if mom works, while 76 percent think so for dad.

There were some other notable results. When Pew asked if it was easier or harder for marriages to be successful when the woman works outside the home, 50 percent thought that harder on marriage, 35 percent easier. As to raising children — 74 percent thought it is harder with a mom working, 19 easier.

Views about single motherhood seem to be softening. Fewer Americans, especially 18 to 29 year olds, think it is a big problem.

Also on the stay-at-home dad front was this very normal testimonial from an American couple. 


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