NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Working Mothers

May 12, 2003

More American mothers than ever are working, and more workers are mothers. Yet their march into the world of paid work continues to evoke skepticism. Many working mothers, confronted by a stubbornly ambivalent society, continue to believe that they are shortchanging their children. They shouldn't. Research tells us that kids do just fine when mothers work. Here are a few reasons to stop worrying:

  • Suzanne Bianchi, a demographer at the University of Maryland, has found that mothers today spend as much if not more time with their children than they did in 1965, even though the percentage of mothers who work rose from 35 percent to 71 percent.
  • When a mother works, average annual household income rises by $10,000 per child in a two-parent home, and by $11,000 in a single-parent home; for many children, these earnings are the difference between living in poverty -- or out of it.
  • Over the last 20 years, studies conducted by the University of Michigan, the Families and Work Institute and others have consistently demonstrated that a child's social or academic competence does not depend on whether a mother is employed.

According to Kathleen Gerson, her research on the first generation of young people to grow up with working mothers showed that four out of five children in dual-earner homes -- and 9 out of 10 with single mothers -- preferred having a working mother.

  • Indeed, half of those children whose mothers stayed home felt it might have been better if their mothers had worked instead.
  • The study also found that children with working mothers (from all income groups) are no more likely to drop out, take drugs, break the law, or experiment with sex prematurely than children with non-employed mothers.

Source: Kathleen Gerson, "Work Without Worry," New York Times, May 11, 2003.


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