The percentage of stay-at-home moms has increased from 23% in 1999 to 29% in 2012 according to a recent study from the Pew Research Center due to a combination of changing demographics and weak job growth even as the economy pulls out of recession after the financial crisis, Business Standard reports.
Stay-at-home moms: Changing demographics may be part of the story
The Pew study found that Asian and Latino children were most likely to be raised by a stay-at-home mom, 37% and 36% respectively compared to 26% of white children and 23% of black children. While this implies that increasing Asian and Latino populations are part of the reason for the change, it’s an odd way to make the argument since it doesn’t control for differences in average family size.
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Pew also found that white mothers were a smaller proportion of the stay-at-home mom population than the working mom population (51% versus 60%).
Lack of opportunity for mothers has risen
Another big change is that 6% of working mothers (regardless of race/ethnicity) said they weren’t working because they can’t find a job in 2012, compared to just 1% in 2000. This five percentage point jump doesn’t seem like it’s enough to fully explain the trend (by itself it would cause closer to a 1% rise), but the lost productivity and lack of opportunity is a problem that the economic recovery needs to solve if it’s going to be called successful. The study also classifies mothers as ‘stay-at-home’ when they’re actually studying for a degree, so part of the rise could also be mothers who have chosen to get another degree while waiting out the recession.
Of course the two trends (demographics and unemployment) probably aren’t completely separate. Just as white mothers are more likely to work, immigrant mothers are less likely, making up 33% of the stay-at-home population versus 20% of the working population. In some instances that’s probably a choice, but it may also signal less access to employment for a variety of reasons. Mothers at home are also younger, less educated, and poorer than working mothers regardless of their marital status or other demographics, with just over a third living in poverty.
The results are more than a year old, which could be significant since it comes at the beginning of an economic recovery, but the numbers are unlikely to be very different right now. While the stock market has surged, corporate earnings and jobs growth hasn’t picked up at anywhere near the same pace.