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40% of moms are primary breadwinners


Moms are out-earning their spouses in a quarter of all American families, according to a new study by Pew Research.

A record number of households, 40%, are being supported primarily or totally by working moms—up from 11% of homes in 1960. That includes a large number of never married moms, an increasingly large proportion of the breadwinning moms population.

And while women still suffer from a significant gender wage gap, married couples with children and breadwinner moms actual netted a higher family income than families where dad brings home the most bacon, the study found. Those moms are also disproportionately white and typically older.

Single, breadwinning moms have increasingly never married—44% of the country’s 8.6 million single mothers have never married, up from 4% in 1960. Those moms are more likely to be younger, less educated, predominantly black and Latino, and making vastly less than their married, well-educated counterparts. “Their median family income was $17,400 in 2011, the lowest among all families with children,” the Pew report said.

Public opinion isn’t totally in step with this shift towards more breadwinning moms: while most families recognized the financial benefit of working moms and reject strictly traditional roles for women, Americans still put different pressures on women when it comes to raising children. 51% still said it was better for children for the mother to stay at home, compared to 8% who believe children are better off with dad at home. Roughly three quarters believe working moms make it harder to raise children. Half of those surveyed also believe women working outside the home make it harder for marriages to be successful.

Public opinion is particularly harsh in its views on single mothers—64% of all respondents said they see unwed moms as a “big problem.” Those respondents were predominantly older, white, and Republican.

The study was derived from 2010 Census Bureau data and a Pew Research survey conducted through landline and cell phones last month. 1,003 adults were sampled.