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40% Breadwinner Moms - Scourge or Savior?

Updated on June 3, 2013
Queen Bee
Queen Bee | Source

Much ado has been made of Pew Research reporting that as of 2011, 40% of households with children under 18 count on the mother as the primary breadwinner in the home - up from just 10% in 1960.

On face value, this is very good news, as women are making strides in their independence, equity, and earning power.

Why the caveat?

Because women have a number of intrinsic values superior to those of men. Women have been outperforming men in schools for decades, earning at least 9 million more college degrees than that male counterparts since 1980.

So the question begs itself - why now?

Wailing & Gnashing of Teeth

Many of a certain political persuasion are pooh-poohing the Pew Report as evidence of a crumbling society. Some are pointing to the supposed immorality of a nation with so many single-mothers. Others are lamenting the disintegration of marriage. Many are wringing their hands over the fragile morale of men, considering the shame of having a wife who brings home the bacon...

The report notes that 78% of Republicans, and (64% overall) consider the growing number of children born to unwed mothers to be a "big problem."

Certainly the number of single-mothers has increased - but of Breadwinner Moms, the rate of single-to-married BMs rate hasn't changed all that much:
32% of BMs were married in 1960, compared to 37% in 2011 - an increase of just 5%. Similarly, 67% of BMs were single in 1960, compared to 62% in 2011 - a decrease of just 5%.

Breadwinner Moms
Married BMs
Single BMs

In other words, many more women are supplying the lion's share (lioness' share?) of the earning power to families, which is a positive thing for both women themselves and for society as a whole.

This report should not be viewed as an opportunity to criticize American society for a simple increase in single-mothers. If anything, it should be used as an excuse to study the poor treatment of single-mothers, and women in the workforce in general.

After all, there is plenty to critique.

Lioness | Source


Popular view amongst mouth-breathers aside - there are larger points to be made:

This report is not bad news because of traditional role concerns of women in society - this report is bad news because it points to the strategy of the corporate profiteers running our country.

Perhaps bad news is a bit harsh. I say bad news only because what I learned was disturbing - not for women (do your damn thing, girl!), but for the state of the country on whole.

Employers have taken advantage of a recession and women's pay disparity (which they've created) to maximize corporate profit margins.

When the Great Recession was taking hold in November of 2007, the unemployment rate was 4.5% overall both amongst men and women - 78m men & 68m women were employed (147m total). By March 2010, only 72m men & 65m women were among 137m employed (11.8% & 8.3% unemployment, respectively).*

Thus, men represented roughly 65% of the 10m net jobs lost over two-and-a-half years. Hence, the Mancession reports a few years back. Millions of manufacturing jobs were lost. Married men and men with degrees have maintained steady employment levels, though many are taking lesser-paying jobs in service and sales - jobs which cannot be easily outsourced. Hence, those without secondary education whom would otherwise be working the sales and service jobs are now pushed toward the unemployment lines.



A closer look shows that while males were the first to lose their jobs (many in manufacturing) in the recession, they also began recovering jobs first. Women were able to hold on for longer partly because of the stimulus which propped up the public sector, which is compromised of 48% female workers. However, between 2007 and 2011, 70% of public sector jobs shed had been held by women.


Given that public sector employment has decreased, yet overall employment has increased - where are women being employed? Despite largely being better educated than their male counterparts, women hold two-thirds of minimum wage jobs. Plus, half of all jobs created last year pay under $30k annually. In an economy based increasingly upon service jobs, this trend is sure to continue.

Sally Ride
Sally Ride | Source

When the unemployment number is high, there is more competition for jobs. It's an employers' market, in other words. They are able to offer lower wages because there are four applicants for job opening - they can always hire another replacement at bargain basement cost. And the new hire is glad to take the slave-wage job because they're better off than the other three saps who didn't get the job.

What have corporations done with this new-found freedom? Why reduce wages, of course. When you can hire a woman to do the same job as a male for 20% less - at some point profit will inevitably overrule any ancient ideology regarding traditional gender roles that would have women bare-foot and in the kitchen.

Not just women, but especially childless women. A recent Cornell University study concluded that mothers are offered $11k less than childless women. And of single women - the Pew study notes that median single BMs earn just $23k/yr, while married BMs' household income is $80k/yr.

According to the BLS, two-thirds of the increase in women (over 16) from November 2011 to April 2013 are single women.

What does it all mean? Companies are glad to hire better-educated women at lower pay than men, glad to hire single women at lower pay than married, glad to hire mothers at lesser pay than childless women. To top it off, men with kids are strangely offered more pay than men without, a stark contrast to how women are treated.

In conclusion, the prison industrial complex and the offshoring of manufacturing jobs has resulted in a shortage of suitable husbands. And after years of outperforming men in schools, women are finally being rewarded i.e. being employed and paid in greater numbers. Unfortunately, corporations are taking advantage of low employment and lack gender-gap standards to maximize production and profits.

Three cheers for the advances made by women. But - is the rise in Breadwinner Moms simply due to the undeniable increased superiority of women overall, due to corporations taking advantage of the pay-gap they themselves enforce to maximize profits, or due to the coming apocalypse?

Females Over 16
November 2007
March 2010
April 2013
Employed Single
Employed Married
Employed "Other"
3,174 (4.5%)
5,982 (8.3%)
4,843 (6.7%)
Unemployed Single
1,384 (6.9%)
2,363 (11.9%)
2,286 (10.4%)
Unemployed Married
1,124 (3%)
2,149 (6%)
1,582 (4.4%)
Unemployed "Other"
706 (4.9%)
1,444 (9.8%)
1,073 (7.3%)
Married Non-Participant
Single Non-Participant
"Other" Non-Participant
Males Over 16
November 2007
March 2010
April 2013
Single & Employed
Married & Employed
"Other" Employed
3,722 (4.5%)
5,982 (8.3%)
6,172 (7.5%)
Single & Unemployed
2,048 (8.4%)
3,190 (12.5%)
Married & Unemployed
1,218 (2.6%)
3,190 (6.9%)
2,017 (4.4%)
"Other" Unemployed
544 (5.2%)
1,616 (15.2%)
1,017 (9.3%)
Married Non-Participant
Single Non-Participant
"Other" Non-Participant

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