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A record 40% of households with children include "breadwinner moms," according to a report out today.
These moms are the sole or primary source of income for households with children younger than 18, a Pew Research Center analysis finds. The analysis looked at data from the U.S. Census Bureau.
"The share of households with children where there is a mother who is the sole or primary breadwinner is up about fourfold from 1960, when it was only 11%," says report co-author Kim Parker, associate director of Pew Research Center's Social & Demographic Trends project.
These moms include two groups: 5.1 million (37%) are married mothers who have a higher income than their husbands, and 8.6 million (63%) are single mothers. The median family income for the first group was $79,800 in 2011, compared with $23,000 for the single mothers.
The growth of breadwinner moms is tied to women's increased employment rate and rising education levels, Parker says.
The public has mixed feelings about women working for pay outside the home, according to a Pew Research Center survey of 1,003 U.S. adults in April. About 67% say it has made it easier for families to earn enough to live comfortably. About 50% say it makes it harder for marriages to be successful; about 74% say it makes it harder for parents to raise children.
Mothers' increased impact on their families' finances brings attention to workplace flexibility for women.
"Women are less likely to have access to flex time than men," says Ellen Galinsky, president of the Families and Work Institute, a non-profit based in New York City. Men are more likely to occupy higher-income and managerial positions that offer flex time, she says.
Some employees feel they would jeopardize their jobs if they use the flexibility offered, Galinsky says.
While workers wait for clues as to how employers will adjust to the increasing role of women in the workplace, more people seem to be getting comfortable with the idea of breadwinner moms. In the new survey, 28% say they agree it is generally better for a marriage if a husband earns more than his wife. In 1997, 40% said so.
"Broad social changes take some time getting used to," says Joshua Coleman, co-chair of the non-profit Council on Contemporary Families. "People are getting more comfortable with the idea of stay-at-home fathers."
Coleman, a psychologist in the San Francisco Bay Area, says it is important for spouses to be mindful of their ideals of fatherhood and motherhood as well as to communicate. He adds, "Men might feel vulnerable that they are not earning enough money, while women might feel guilty that they are not spending enough time with their children."
Chloe Bird, a senior sociologist at RAND Corp., sees benefits for kids. "Children have less gendered expectations of which parent is able to do what," she says in an e-mail. "Children also benefit from learning how their parents combine work and family roles, and they can take that experience into their own families."
Source: USA Today