Study Finds Record Number of “Breadwinner Moms”

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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. Theanalysis 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…

…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.”

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