Speed Reads

Numbers don't lie

The number of stay-at-home moms is on the rise, but it's complicated


More mothers in the U.S. are staying home to raise their children than in 2000, an unusual rise documented in a new survey from the Pew Research Center. But the increase to 29 percent, from a low of 23 percent 14 years ago, doesn't mean women are putting their outside careers on hold en masse. And the ones who are, through choice or necessity, aren't the "opt-out" moms fussed over in the media.

In fact, stay-at-home moms (SAHMs, colloquially) are typically younger, poorer, and less-educated than mothers who work outside of the home; almost half aren't white, and a third immigrated to the U.S.:

And those "opt-out mothers"?

In 2012, nearly 370,000 U.S. married stay-at-home mothers (with working husbands) had at least a master’s degree and family income exceeding $75,000. This group accounted for 5 percent of married stay-at-home mothers with working husbands.... These women stand out from other married stay-at-home mothers in that they are disproportionately white or Asian. About seven-in-ten (69 percent) are white, and fully 19 percent are Asian. Only 7 percent are Hispanic, and 3 percent are black. [Pew]

There are a lot of fascinating data points in the report, especially if you're interested in why women stay home and which demographics believe that's better for kids. But I'll leave you with this intriguing chart:

To understand why SAHMs apparently spend only seven hours a week more on child care (and nine more on housework) than their working-outside-the-home peers, turn to Chapter 3, not Gwyneth Paltrow.