Mothers are the primary breadwinners in four out of 10 U.S. households with minor children, a record number driven up by growing populations of single moms and married women who make more than their husbands, according to a report released Wednesday from the Pew Research Center.
The 40 percent figure is up from 11 percent in 1960, when fewer women worked regardless of whether they had children.
Today, a quarter of the country's households with children under 18 are headed by single, bread-winning mothers, up from 7 percent in 1960. Working moms of kids under 18 out-earn their husbands in 15 percent of households, up from just 3.5 percent in 1960.
Disparities between the two groups are sharp. The married moms are more likely to be white, educated and older, making a median income of $50,000. While the unmarried mothers are frequently younger, either black or hispanic, and bringing in a median income of $20,000.
"The growth of both groups of mothers is tied to women's increasing presence in the workplace," the study states, pointing out that women make up 47 percent of the labor force and that more mothers work outside the home today: 65 percent according to 2011 census data, compared with 37 percent in 1968.
The country is mixed on whether that's a positive gain, however. About half of adults say marriages suffer when the mom works, and three quarters claim it's harder for families to raise children. However, two thirds acknowledge that working moms make it easier to live comfortably.
Tricia Bishop is a new mom who covers family issues for The Baltimore Sun.