For the first time, mom is the breadwinner for 4 in 10 households in America, according to studies by Pew Research Center. Women now comprise 47 percent of American workers, and the number of married mothers who work was 65 percent in 2011.
Americans feel conflicted about these trends, according to Pew’s surveys. The vast majority (79 percent) rejects that women should return to more traditional roles. Yet three quarters of respondents—male and female—say that it’s more difficult to raise kids when women work outside the home.
Researchers also found that total family income is higher when the mother, not the father, is the primary breadwinner. In 2011 the median family income was nearly $80,000 for couples in which wife is the primary breadwinner, about $2,000 more than it was for couples in which husband is the primary breadwinner, and $10,000 more than for couples in which spouses’ income is the same.
Married mothers also are increasingly better educated than their husbands. In two-parent families today, 61 percent have a mother whose education level is similar to her husband’s and 23 percent have a mother who is better educated than her husband.
Most people reject the idea that it is bad for a marriage if a wife out-earns her husband. When asked if they agree or disagree that it is generally better for a marriage if a husband earns more than his wife, some 28 percent of survey respondents say they agreed. When a similar question was asked in 1997, 40 percent said they agreed.