Recently, The New York Times ran an article that caught many social observers by surprise. According to the Pew Research Center, four out of every ten American households that include children under the age of 18 now have a mother who is either the sole or primary wage earner for her family. This statistic--the highest ever on record--has quadrupled since 1960.
Some analysts believe this is because it is now so common for single women to raise children on their own. Nearly two-thirds of the women who are chief breadwinners for their family are single parents. Other experts feel that the recession--during which men employed in construction and manufacturing, and were therefore more likely to lose their jobs--is to blame.
In 2007 (before the recession officially started), 20% of mothers told PEW that they would rather work full time than part time or not at all. But by the end of 2012 that had risen to 32%.
The median family income for single mothers (who are more likely to be younger, less educated, Hispanic or Black) is $23,000. But the median household income for married women who earn more than their husbands (who are more likely to be slightly older, college educated, and White) is $80,000. Of all married couples, 24% include a wife who earns more than her husband, while in 1960 that number was only 6%. Interestingly enough, economists discovered that wives with a better education and stronger earning potential than their husbands are less likely to work.
If the job market continues to evolve, marriage/income issues may change as well. Experts agree that college degrees are becoming more important to both finding and keeping a job. And, of late, more women than men are earning 4-year degrees. In 2011, 23% of married couples with children included a wife with more education than her husband; in 17% of those couples the men had higher educations. The remaining 60% included spouses with near-equal levels of education.
In 2007, 71% of Americans felt that the growing number of children born to unmarried mothers was "a big problem." But only two months ago that number was 64%. Republicans are more likely than either Independents or Democrats to be concerned about the increasing number of unmarried single mothers.
In 1960, the share of never-married single mothers was only 4%, but by 2011 it had risen to 44%. Never-married mothers tend to earn less money than their divorced or widowed peers and, according to PEW, are more likely to be a member of a racial or ethnic minority.
Looking forward to your comments...