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Stay-at-home moms: Attacking the 'opt-out' theory
What a new Census report says about who's staying at home to raise children, and why
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inally, we can put the "opt-out revolution" myth to rest for good, said Judy Berman in Salon. Lisa Belkin's theory, explained in a 2003 New York Times Magazine article, was that an increasing number of highly educated, relatively well-off women were opting to leave the workforce and become stay-at-home moms. Now new Census data proves that it's less-educated, lower-income moms who tend to stay home with their kids, proving that Belkin's revolution "never happened."

Poking holes in Belkin's "opt-out revolution" theory was always easy, said Brian Reid in The Washington Post, because it was based on "a staggering small sample of women (her Princeton classmates) who had stepped out of the corporate rat race to focus on home." And the Census data does say that "on average, stay-at-home moms are more likely to be young, foreign-born, and less-educated than moms as a whole. But the authors of the report were a bit too dismissive of the opt-out phenomenon—a whopping 1.8 million of the 5.6 million at-home moms have a college diploma."

It's certainly an oversimplification to say the Census report has debunked the opt-out theory, said Elizabeth Gettelman in Mother Jones. "The report's results are actually much more complicated than that and mean that women who want to choose to stay home can't now for a host of reasons, that those who do have little choice in the matter (many of whom are also feminists, and all of whom are feminine), and that more women are actually just losing their jobs."

Academics really want to argue about "whether women should stay at home," said David Leonhardt in The New York Times, but they don't want to come off as sexist scolds, so they fight over whether women are staying at home to make their points. "So here’s a modest proposal: Maybe we should stop arguing so much about whether women are staying home in greater numbers" and focus instead on getting companies to "make part-time work a more serious option for both mothers and fathers?"

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