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Women main breadwinners for 40 percent of American households

Women working at sewing machines in the 1970s.
Women working at sewing machines in the 1970s.
Flickr/Kheel Center, Cornell University

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A Pew study found that the percentage of American homes in which women bring home the lion’s share or all of the income has more than tripled in the last half century.

According to analysis of the study, in 1960, just 11 percent of U.S. families with children were supported by mom, but a spike in the number of single mothers raising kids contributed to 40 percent of families in which mom is bringing in most or all of the money in 2011.

Also contributing to the change is the success of women in the workplace, boosting their salaries so now 1 in 4 women out earns her husband.

Has the swing toward women supporting the family been good or bad for America’s children? What about for marriages? Is it better to have the kids at home with mom every day or dad? Pew also found that two thirds of Americans see the rise of single motherhood as a “big problem,” but as roles are redefined and a new generation of Americans embraces the changing landscape of home life, is it a problem or a reality?

Stephanie Coontz, Professor of History and Family Studies in The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington; Director of Research and Public Education for the Council on Contemporary Families; Author of "A Strange Stirring: The Feminine Mystique and American Women at the Dawn of the 1960s" (Basic Books, 2011), and "Marriage, A History: How Love Conquered Marriage" (Viking Press, 2005)