19 August 2013
From Bread Baker to Bread Winner: More Moms Become Primary Wage Earners

The role of the American mother has evolved over the past 50 years. Fewer mothers stay at home to raise families. Many have to work as the sole support for their single-parent families.

Times may have changed, but many of the opinions expressed in a study* on women in the workplace, undertaken by the Pew Research Center®, indicate that long-held beliefs about working women versus stay-at-home moms are still part of the nation’s cultural fabric.

The study focused on households in which the mother is the principal wage earner, either because she is the sole support of her family, or because she earns more than her husband or partner.

Workplace Trends for Working Mothers

The Pew research indicates clear trends in both the workplace and the perception of two-income families with regard to working mothers.

  • One obvious trend is more working mothers. In general, four out of 10 households with children under the age of 18 include moms who are either the sole or primary source of income.
  • 8.6 million working mothers are single parents, and their numbers have increased in each of the past five decades.
  • 37% of moms listed as “principal wage earner” earn more than their spouses, and their numbers have also steadily increased.
  • Most adults now reject the idea that it’s bad for a marriage when mom out-earns dad. Who earns more seems less important than maintaining a better quality of life.
  • Working moms are increasingly more educated than their husbands. 23% of two-income households have a mother with more education than the father, while the father has more education than the mother in 16% of households.

Working Mothers: What Americans Think

The latest Pew study shows that Americans clearly recognize the economic benefits that two-income households deliver to families, but many people still worry that a mom working full time has a negative impact on children, and even on the marriage itself.

  • Pew reports that three-quarters of adults believe that mothers in the workplace make it harder to raise children. 50% of adults believe that a working mom places stress on relationships, creating marital difficulties.
  • At the same time, two-thirds of respondents believe that working mothers make it easier for families to live comfortably.
  • 51% of those surveyed by Pew think kids are better off when moms stay at home, while only 8% said the same of fathers who stay home to raise the kids – a clear indication of public expectations of mothers and fathers.

The statistics identified by the Pew study clearly indicate that working mothers have become an important part of both family life and work life – a trend we can expect to continue in the decades ahead.


The information provided is presented for general informational purposes only and does not constitute tax, legal or business advice.

The Pew Research Center® is a registered trademark of the Pew Research Center, and Nevada State Bank does not claim any ownership or exclusive right to the use of this trademark.


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