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A record 40% of all US households with children under the age of 18 include mothers who are either the sole or primary source of income for the family, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of data from the US Census Bureau. The share was just 11% in 1960.
The breadwinning mums are divided into two broad groups – 63% are single parents, but 37% are married mums with a higher income than their partners.
The average total family income of married mothers who earn more than their husbands was nearly $80,000 in 2011, compared to the national average of $57,100 for all families with children, and nearly four times the $23,000 median for families led by a single mother.
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Married mothers who out-earn their husbands are slightly older, disproportionally white and college educated. Single mothers, by contrast, are younger, more likely to be black or Hispanic, and less likely to have a college degree, according to the Pew Center.
Women make up 47% of the US workforce, and the employment rate of married mothers with children has increased from 37% in 1968 to 65% in 2011. The Pew Center speculates that the recession may have had an impact.
However, a survey by the Center finds about three-quarters of adults (74%) say the increasing number of women working for pay has made it harder for parents to raise children, and half say that it has made marriages harder to succeed. At the same time, two-thirds say it has made it easier for families to live comfortably. About half (51%) of survey respondents say that children are better off if a mother is home and doesn’t hold a job, while just 8% say the same about a father.
The survey showed there was less concern than in the past about the growing number of single parents – down from 71% in 2007 who saw it as ‘a big problem’ to 64%. Younger people were less likely to view it as a problem, while Republicans and white people were more likely to see it as worrying.
Other findings show that family income is higher when a mother rather than a father is the main breadwinner, mothers are increasingly better educated than fathers and most people are against the idea that a woman outearning her husband is a bad thing.