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Breadwinning moms are a norm, says new report

By Nisa Islam Muhammad -Staff Writer- | Last updated: Jun 5, 2019 - 11:56:46 AM

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In this July 24, 2017 photograph, Otibehia Allen, a single mother of five, stands outside her rented mobile home in Jonestown, Miss. Allen works 30 hours a week as a data entry clerk and transportation dispatcher for a medical clinic, pulling in barely over minimum wage.

WASHINGTON—Today’s working mother is also more likely to be a breadwinner. According to a new report by the Center for American Progress, they found that in 2017, nearly two-thirds—64.2 percent—of mothers were primary, sole, or co-breadwinners for their families.

“For the past decade, research has shown that the days of the full-time, stay-at-home mom are long over for a majority of U.S. families, but too little is being done to advance policies that are responsive to families’ needs,” said Sarah Jane Glynn, former director of Women’s Economic Policy at the Center for American Progress and author of the report.

“This is especially true for Black and Latina mothers, who make up a disproportionate share of breadwinners. It’s past time for policymakers to address the gender wage gap and lack of policies such as universal paid family and medical leave, paid sick days, and workplace flexibility so that mothers can reach their full potential while caring for their families.”

The center’s research found that 41 percent of mothers were sole or primary breadwinners in 2017, bringing in at least half of their families’ incomes. Nearly another one-quarter of mothers—23.2 percent—were co-breadwinners, bringing home between 25 percent and 49 percent of earnings for their families. The report, released May 10 is an updated version of “Breadwinning Mothers Are Increasingly the U.S. Norm,” by Ms. Glynn originally published on December 19, 2016.

“In today’s economy, mothers have to be at the center of any plan to truly enhance families’ economic security,” said Shilpa Phadke, vice president of the Women’s Initiative at the Center for American Progress. “This report reveals that it’s Black and Latina mothers who suffer most from the Trump administration’s lack of a family-friendly economic policy agenda.”

The report found that most children who grow up in the United States in the 21st century will be raised in households in which all of the adults work. They are most likely to be raised by a single working parent or two married parents who are both employed, and only a minority of children will grow up in families with a full-time, stay-at-home parent throughout their childhood.

The authors explain how although working parents are the modern norm and have been for years, the notion that most families already have a full-time caregiver available persists and continues to influence public policy as federal and, to a lesser extent, state policymaking have not prioritized work-family supports.

In most families, every adult works; when a new child is welcomed into the family, when a child stays home sick from school, or when an aging parent suffers from a fall, someone must stay home to provide care—and this person is usually a mother, a wife, or an adult daughter.

The report’s notable findings by race reveal that Black and Latina mothers are more likely to be breadwinners than White mothers. Furthermore, a substantial 84.4 percent of Black mothers were primary, sole, or co-breadwinners in 2017, compared with 60.3 percent of Latina mothers and 62.4 percent of White mothers.

Black mothers are by far the most likely to be the primary economic support for their families, both because a higher percentage are single mothers and because when part of a married couple, they are more likely to earn as much as or more than their husbands. Black mothers are also much more likely to be unmarried breadwinners (51.1 percent), compared with White (16.0 percent) and Hispanic (25.7 percent) mothers or mothers of another race or ethnicity (13.2 percent).

The report found that it is well documented that Black and Hispanic women have lower wages, on average, than White men, men of color, and White women. In 2018, non-Hispanic White women earned 81.5 percent of what non-Hispanic White men earned, while Black women earned only 65.3 percent and Hispanic women earned only 61.6 percent of what non-Hispanic White men earned.

These findings also reflect Black and Hispanic women’s historically high labor force participation rates, as women of color have always been more likely than White women to work in the paid labor force.

“This is not breaking news for Black moms who have been bread winners for a very long time. It’s good to see that we are getting the recognition for what we bring to the table to our families. Black women work hard to do the best we can. We have been in the workforce for a decades as single moms and wives,” D.C. government consultant, wife and mother Aminah Washington told The Final Call.

“We often have to work longer hours, help our spouses when they get laid off or can’t find work, deal with racism other women don’t have to deal with and still go to work and take care of our children, many times for less pay. Yes, we are breadwinners.”

Other key findings from the report include:

∙ Women with a college degree are the least likely to be breadwinners, whereas the likelihood of being a co-breadwinner increases along with education attainment.

∙ Younger and lower-income women are more likely to be breadwinners but less likely to be co-breadwinners compared with older and higher-income women.

∙ The Northeast has the highest concentration of breadwinners, while the Midwest has the highest concentration of co-breadwinners; 68.2 percent of mothers in the Midwest are breadwinners or co-breadwinners—the highest among regions in the nation.