AirTalk for April 10, 2014

More women are becoming 'stay at home moms', but is it by choice?

Air Raid Evacuees

William Vanderson/Getty Images

18th December 1940: Evacuated mother Mrs Gwendoline Cook of Mitcham, Surrey, bathes her three children in the bathroom at Stone Hall Mansion, the country house of Lady Denman, chief of the Women's Land Army.

For decades, the number of women who don’t work outside the home after having kids was on the decline and reached a modern-era low of 23 percent in 1999. But according to an analysis of government data by the Pew Research Center, that trend is starting to reverse itself. The number of "stay at home moms" reached 29 percent in 2012.

The data behind the increase paints a diverse picture of the women who are staying out of the workforce. Despite the attention brought by the so-called 'opt out' moms who chose not to work - the majority of women who stay at home with their kids are there because of a mix of societal and economic factors.  

Among all mothers, the share who are the prototypical married mother with a working husband fell to 20% in 2012 from 40% in 1970. 'Opt out' moms make up an even smaller bunch - only 370,000 out of 316 million Americans are married women with a graduate degree and a household income above $75,000.

Today, stay at home moms are generally less educated and less well off than working mothers. A full third (34%) of stay at home moms are living in poverty, compared to 12% of working mothers.

Are more women choosing to stay at home with their kids or are they being priced out of the workforce by the high cost of childcare? Data from the U.S. Census shows that the average cost of childcare for working women with children under 15 went from $84 a week to $143 a week at the same time that wages for women have stagnated or plummeted.

How many moms are staying at home because they can not find a job? How is immigration impacting the trend of more moms staying at home?

Guest:

 D’Vera Cohn, senior writer in social and demographic trends at the Pew Research Center


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