More mothers bring home the dough

A mother holds hands with her child. Via Flickr user Houstonian.

A mother holds hands with her child in the 1940s. Via Flickr user Houstonian.

A new study turned an old stereotype on its head.

In the U.S., a record 40 percent of all households with children under 18 include mothers who are either the sole or primary source of income, according to the Pew Research Center.

That number has quadrupled since 1960.

Whether this finding is good news proves a complicated question. On one hand, women have been steadily becoming more educated. They now make up the majority of college students in the U.S. That education means a bigger salary.

But there is the other side of the coin. This study includes mothers who are both their family’s primary source of income and mothers who are the only source of income. This study somewhat reflects that there are more single mothers than in 1960.

The study reveals the breakdown of the 40 percent that Pew studied: two-thirds of those bacon-bringing moms are single.

This salary study is mixed. It’s wonderful that about 13 percent of all households with children under 18 have mothers who make more money than their spouses. That was unheard of a few decades ago. But at the same time, a quarter of all households are led by mothers who are the sole wage-earner.

The Pew study also points to the persistence of outdated beliefs when it comes to women’s place in the home. The majority of people that Pew surveyed said the increasing number of women working has made it easier for families to earn enough to live comfortably. Of course, that makes sense. Two wage-earners are more financially effective than one.

At the same time, three quarters of people said more women working has also made it harder for parents to raise children. This is the part that smacks of out-of-touch ideals.

Women working makes it harder to raise kids? I didn’t realize child-rearing was solely a mother’s job.

It’s an intriguing study with a lot to dig into: the trends behind the statistics, cultural attitudes, and everything in between.

What do you think these statistics say about the U.S. today? Are the study’s findings good or bad news?

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