On Wednesday, the Pew Social & Demographic Trends Project released a new snapshot of today's American family, and it looks pretty different than the Leave It to Beaver model. More married mothers are working outside the home and out-earning their husbands, while the number of single mothers is also on the rise.
"The decade of the 2000s witnessed the most rapid change in the percentage of married mothers earning more than their husbands of any decade since 1960," University of Maryland sociologist Philip Cohen tells The Washington Post. "This reflects the larger job losses experienced by men at the beginning of the Great Recession. Also, some women decided to work more hours or seek better jobs in response to their husbands' job loss, potential loss or declining wages."
The so-called "man-cession" is part of the equation, but "the trend is being driven mostly by long-term demographic changes, including higher rates of education and labor force participation dating back to the 1960s women's movement," says The Associated Press' Hope Yen. "Demographers say the change is all but irreversible and is likely to bring added attention to child-care policies as well as government safety nets for vulnerable families."
And it seems Americans don't know what to make of the findings. People's attitudes haven't changed as quickly as society has, Pew reports. For example, just 21 percent say the trend toward more mothers of young children working outside the home is a good thing for society. "Maybe in the future this will just be the norm and it won't be unusual to anybody," says Kim Parker, associate director of the Pew Social & Demographic Trends Project. "But now, the public is still working through a lot of this stuff."
Here's a look at today's families, and the rise of the "breadwinner mom," by the numbers: (The earnings numbers are mostly from 2011 Census data; the polling on attitudes are from 2013.)
Percentage of U.S. households with children under 18 where the mother is the sole or primary breadwinner
Percentage of U.S. households where that was true in 1960
"Breadwinner moms" who are married and earn more than their husbands
"Breadwinner moms" who are single mothers
Median income of all U.S. households with kids under 18
Median income of all U.S. households
Median income of two-parent families where mothers out-earn their husbands
Median income of two-parent families where fathers out-earn their wives
Median income of two-parent families where both parents earn the same amount
Median income of just the married mothers who out-earn their husbands
Median income of single mothers
Median income of single fathers
Median income of single mothers who are divorced, separated, or widowed
Median income of single mothers who were never married
Percentage of never-married single moms who are 30 or under
Percentage of never-married single moms who are black. Another 24 percent are Hispanic.
Percentage of single mothers who have never been married
Percentage of single mothers who were never married in 1960
Percentage of Americans who say this rise in kids born to unwed mothers is a big problem
Percentage of Americans who said the rise of out-of-wedlock births was a big problem in 2007
Percentage of all married households where the wife out-earns the husband
Percentage of married households with under-18 kids where the mother out-earns the father
Percentage of all married households in 1960 where the wife out-earned the husband
Percentage of married households with under-18 kids where the mom is the sole earner
Percentage of such households where the mom was the sole earner in 1960
Percentage of married households with under-18 kids where the dad is the sole earner
Percentage of such households where the dad was the sole earner in 1960
Percentage of Americans who say it is better for a marriage if the husband out-earns the wife
Percentage of Americans who disagree with that statement
Percentage of respondents with high school diplomas or less who agreed that its better for husbands to out-earn wives
Percentage of all respondents who agreed with that statement in 1997
Percentage of respondents who say moms working outside the home makes its easier for families to earn enough to live comfortably
Percentage of respondents who say moms working outside the home makes it harder for marriage so be successful
Percentage of respondents who say moms working outside the home makes it harder for parents to raise kids
Percentage of respondents who say kids are better off if the mother stays home
Percentage of respondents who say kids are just as well off if the mother works outside the home
Percentage of respondents who say kids are just as well off if the father works outside the home
Percentage of respondents who says kids are better off if the father stays home
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- How Ronald Reagan turned America into a nation of children
- Why is the West so afraid of Islam?
- Why Mitt Romney is perfectly poised for a comeback in 2016
- 10 things you need to know today: August 1, 2014
- The Nazi smart bomb that inspired China's most dangerous weapon
- 8 secrets to steal from power networkers
- How to make classic pulled pork
- 7 grammar rules you really should pay attention to
- Here's the schedule very successful people follow every day
- What would a U.S.-Russia war look like?
Subscribe to the Week