REPORT Plurality of American parents think it’s best for mothers to work part-time


Working Woman

It’s no surprise that societal expectations for women have changed during the last 50 or so years. Still, even though working mothers have gained more acceptance, 78 percent of American fathers maintain it’s best for mothers to avoid full-time work.

According to a new study from the Pew Research Center, 41 percent of fathers believe the ideal situation for children younger than 18 is for their mother to work part-time. Thirty-seven percent of fathers believe that mothers should not work at all. Only 16 percent stated they believe it’s ideal for a mother to work full-time.

Pew Social Trends Working Mothers

Women, on the other hand, are more in favor of working full-time. Overall, 37 percent reported wanting to work full-time, which was a 16 point increase from five years ago. Only 11 percent of mothers hoped they could work “not at all.” 

Pew Mothers

Researchers also segmented the respondents into certain demographics to see how wealth and marital status affected their beliefs. Among women who said they “don’t even have enough to cover basic expenses,” 47 percent said they would ideally work full-time. Among those who reported living comfortably, only 31 percent wished to work full-time. Nearly half of unmarried mothers believed it would be ideal for them to work full-time. At just 23 percent, significantly fewer married mothers reported the same thing.

The findings become more culturally revealing when contrasted with parents’ responses from 2007. Back then, before The Great Recession, far fewer mothers wanted to work full-time. At 60 percent, the solid majority of working mothers with children said the ideal situation was for them to work part-time.

If anything, the new findings show that we are more divided in the working-mother debate now than before. Unlike in years past, there was no clear majority group saying that “all mothers should work (x) hours per week.” In other words, there are millions of families in the United States. Each has its own set of circumstances and each should be allowed to make decisions regarding who will work and how much.

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