Re:Gender works to end gender inequity and discrimination against girls and women by exposing root causes and advancing research-informed action. Working with multiple sectors and disciplines, we are shaping a world that demands fairness across difference.
The Real Face of Stay-At-Home Mothers: Those Who Have No Other Financial Option
Bryce Covert looks at 2010 Census data, which shows that stay-at-home mothers are more likely to be younger, Hispanic, and less education--and most likely "choose" to be stay-at-home mothers out of economic necessity in the face of childcare costs.
A study in 2010 conducted by the Census, looking at its own data on stay-at-home mothers, showed that as compared to the make-up in 1979, today’s moms in the home are younger, less educated, and much more likely to be Hispanic – and in particular, foreign born. The report states, “on average stay-at-home mothers do not have higher levels of educational attainment compared with their counterparts.” In fact, 18 percent lack a high school degree, compared to just 7 percent of women in the workforce. They are also younger: women under 35 are more likely to be stay-at-home mothers now than they were in 1969.
The statistics on race paint a clear picture that the face of stay-at-home motherhood is more and more likely to be Hispanic. In 1969, 94 percent of stay-at-home mothers were white. That figure dropped nine percentage points between then and 2009. Meanwhile, the number of Hispanic stay-at-home mothers shot up. In 1979, a mere seven percent of stay-at-home mothers were Hispanic, but that increased to 27 percent in 2009. That’s a difference of about 11 percent between stay-at-home mothers and other mothers. These women also tend to be foreign born: 23 percent of stay-at-home mothers are from another country, as compared to 11 percent of other mothers.
Why would Hispanic women born in other countries stay out of the workforce? One of the major factors, the Census study says, may be that with less education and potentially more limited job skills, it may be a practical consideration. Because it can mean that they are unable to get higher paying jobs, which leads them to fall behind financially. According to an analysis run by the New York Times, those households have a median income of $64,000, over $10,000 less than those in which women are in the workforce.
This is a very different picture than the white, ultra-wealthy Ann Romney, and also possibly different than the mothers pictured in P&G’s ad. Why? Because given all of these considerations, it’s likely that the women staying home aren’t doing so because of a choice so much as a financial consideration.
Childcare is anything by cheap in this country. The National Association of Child Care Resource & Referral Agencies reports that the average annual cost of putting an infant in full-time care can hit $18,200 on the high-end, and the cost for a four-year-old can be as much as $14,050. For a household making that median $64,000, that figure can eat up almost 30 percent of its income. Subsidies are meant to help families plug that hole and get to work, but we’ve recently been pulling back on that support. TheNational Women’s Law Center has reported that 37 states have made getting help paying for childcare more difficult through putting people on waiting lists, requiring higher copayments, lower reimbursements for childcare providers, and making eligibility even more stringent. The result will be far fewer families who can pay for childcare.