After Decades of Decline, Rise in the Number of Stay-At-Home Mothers

A new report by the Pew Research Center shows a reversal in the long-term decline in "stay-at-home" mothers that had taken place in the last three decades of the twentieth century.  Analyzing data from the Current Population Survey and the American Time Use Survey, the Pew Research Center found that after reaching a modern-era low of 23 percent in 1999, the percentage of mothers who do not work outside the home increased to 29 percent in 2012.

"The recent turnaround appears to be driven by a mix of demographic, economic and societal factors, including rising immigration as well as a downturn in women’s labor force participation, and is set against a backdrop of continued public ambivalence about the impact of working mothers on young children."

  • Stay-at-home mothers (SAHMs) tend to be younger and less educated than their working counterparts. Among all stay-at-home mothers in 2012, 42 percent were younger than 35, compared to 35 percent of working mothers, and 49 percent have a high school diploma or less, compared with 30 percent of working mothers.
  • SAHMs are less likely than working mothers to be white (51 percent are white, compared with 60 percent of working mothers) and more likely to be immigrants (33 percent vs. 20 percent).
  • A third of SAHMs are living in poverty, compared with 12 percent of working mothers, but those who are married with working husbands tend to be better off financially: they are more highly educated, and relatively few are in poverty (15 percent).
  • Among all mothers, the share of SAHMs with working husbands fell from 40 percent in 1970 to 20 percent in 2012. Among all SAHMs, those who are married with working husbands make up the largest share (68 percent in 2012), but that has declined significantly from 1970, when it was 85 percent.
  • A small but growing share of SAHMs (6 percent in 2012, versus 1 percent in 2000) say they are home with their children because they cannot find a job. With incomes stagnant in recent years for all but the college-educated, less educated workers in particular may weigh the cost of child care against wages and decide it makes more economic sense to stay home.

Read more: resources:
Bureau of Labor Statistics: Databases, Tables & Calculators by Subject (
Labor participation rate, female (% of female population ages 15+) (
Family Change 1950 to 1990 (
Exploring the Second Shift: A Data-Driven Learning Guide (
Frederique Laubepin

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