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Women are Increasingly Both Breadwinners and Caregivers


As more women join the workforce and climb the corporate ladder they’re more likely to fill the role of family breadwinner. Yet those professional advancements come without without the luxury to relinquish any of their traditionally held caregiver responsibilities, like shuttling kids to and from school, taking care of doctor appointments and housework, according to a Pew Research Center study released Wednesday.

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Forty percent of homes with children are now led by female breadwinners, according to Pew analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data. That’s up from just 11 percent in 1990.

(You can read the study in its entirety here, if you’re so inclined.)

The New York Times notes that this upsurge stems from a dramatic shift in family dynamics. More women pursue careers. Then, there’s the Great Recession. One of its lasting impacts of the economic downturn was that it pushed the elderly back into the workforce, the already employed into a second job and, of course, the stay-at-home mom into a career.

Another reason for the upward trend: More women raise children without a spouse. The clear majority of the breadwinning moms surveyed in the study are single parents. In fact, about 5.1 million (37 percent) of those breadwinner moms in the Pew report are married with a bigger salary than their spouse. The other 8.6 million (63 percent) are single.

The income disparity between those two groups is huge. The median family income of married moms who out-earn their spouses clocked in at $80,000 in 2011 – far higher than the national median of $57,000, Pew notes. And quadruple the median of $23,000 for families headed by single moms.

Demographically, there’s a disparity, too. High-earning married moms with kids under 18 are older, disproportionately white and claim a college degree. Their single counterparts, on the other hand, tend to be Hispanic or black and less likely to be college educated, Pew says.

For more findings, read the study summary.

Tell Us What You Think

What do you think of this shifting family dynamic in the U.S.? Share your thoughts on Twitter or in the comments!

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(Photo credit: c U.S. Department of Labor – Flickr)

Jennifer Wadsworth
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