According to a new Pew Research Centre analysis of data from the U.S. Census Bureau, 4 in 10 US households with children under the age of 18, include mothers who are either the sole or primary source of income for the family. This share was just 1 in 10 in 1960. The scale of this demographic shift is huge. 13.7 million female breadwinners in the United States today are either married women making more money than their husbands or single mothers.
The survey also brought to light some more interesting facts. The total family income is higher when the mother, not the father, is the primary breadwinner. This is because households where she is the main earner are more likely to have both partners working for pay, rather than relying on solely his income.
What will not be a surprise to many of my female clients is the finding that married mothers are also increasingly better educated than their husbands. Just like me and my own husband, who have a PhD and a first degree respectively between us, the share of couples in which the mother has attained a higher education than her spouse has gone up from 7% in 1960 to 23% in 2011.
The Pew article on Female Breadwinners stated that, “The growth of both groups of mothers is tied to women’s increasing presence in the workplace. Women make up almost of half (47%) of the U.S. labour force today, and the employment rate of married mothers with children has increased from 37% in 1968 to 65% in 2011.”
Women can be very successful at anything they choose to do – whether it is motherhood or careers. Whenever I interact with smart, professional women who are balancing their careers and homes quite well, I witness the incredible potential hidden inside every woman. Hence I was not surprised when the study showed how women are not only earning more than the men but also raising children while doing it.
Instead of celebrating the success of women, some men see this as a death knell for the family. Fox News recently gathered an all-male panel that discussed how the disappearance of male economic dominance indicated a grim end for society. Choice phrases tossed around included “disintegration of marriage”, “society dissolve around us”, and “something going terribly wrong in American society”. Worse, one panel member, darkly intimated that women’s escape from economic dependence turns them into killers – in reference to all those money-grabbing women having abortions on their lunch break. Talk about reactionary and out of touch. Most families now need two incomes to survive and businesses do better when they can rely on well-educated talent – a source that is increasingly female.
While insecure men may feel threatened, this can be great news for many. My husband, who is baffled by the negative reaction of many men, told the HuffPost Live when we were interviewed on this topic last week: “This offers men many more choices – they can actually pursue careers that interest them, rather than feeling they have to simply earn money. That’s what being a team is about!”
Companies can no longer choose to ignore their female employees. Smart men will support women who work– not just for the good of their company, but for the world at large.