April 8, 2014

7 key findings about stay-at-home moms

1More moms are staying home: The share of mothers who do not work outside the home has risen over the past decade, reversing a long-term decline in stay-at-home mothers. (In the U.S. today, 71% of all mothers work outside the home.) Two-thirds are “traditional” married stay-at-home mothers with working husbands, but a growing share is unmarried.

share of stay at home moms over time

2Americans say a parent at home is best: Despite the fact that most mothers in the U.S. work at least part time, 60% of Americans say children are better off when a parent stays home to focus on the family, while 35% say they are just as well off when both parents work outside the home.

americans say a parent at home is best

3But opinions vary by religion, ethnicity and education: Hispanics, white evangelical Protestants and those who never attended college are more likely to say children are better off with a parent at home. College-educated women are among the most likely to say children are just as well off if their parents work outside the home.

FT_14.04.07_Stay At Home Moms_demographicGroups640px

4Stay-at-home moms are poorer, less educated than working moms: Stay-at-home mothers are younger, poorer and less educated than their working counterparts. For example, 34% of stay-at-home mothers are poor, compared with 12% of working mothers. They are also less likely to be white and more likely to be immigrants.

FT_14.04.07_Stay At Home Moms_sahmWorkingDiff640px (1)

5The share of stay-at-home moms in poverty has doubled since 1970: While more stay-at-home moms are in poverty — 34% in 2012, compared with 14% in 1970 — those with working husbands generally are better off than those without. But stay-at-home moms with working husbands are not as well off financially as married mothers who work outside the home.

stay at home moms in poverty percentage

6Home by choice or necessity? Married stay-at-home mothers with working husbands are more likely than single or cohabiting mothers to say caring for family is their primary reason for being home. Single and cohabiting stay-at-home mothers are more likely than married stay-at-home mothers with working husbands to say they are ill or disabled, unable to find a job, or enrolled in school. Overall, a growing share of stay-at-home mothers say they are home because they cannot find a job: 6% in 2012, versus 1% in 2000.

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7How stay-at-home and working moms spend their time: Mothers who are not working for pay spend more time, on average, on child care and housework than do working mothers, but they also have more time for leisure and sleep.

time use of stay at home and working moms


Topics: Family Roles, Household and Family Structure, Parenthood, Work and Employment

  1. Photo of D’Vera Cohn

    is a senior writer focusing on social and demographic trends at Pew Research Center.

  2. is the Social Media Editor at the Pew Research Center.

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  1. Sass3 days ago

    Stay at home moms are poorer? File that one under obvious.

  2. Ashley4 weeks ago

    I am a young stay at home parent of a three year old boy. My husband is a hard working man who provides a comfortable life for our little family. We are a wonderful middle class black family who made this choice so our son could have someone to care for him and teach him values, respect and how to be a functioning member of society. I wanted to stay home with him so I could be hands on in his development not because I couldn’t find a job. People like this make me sick like all we do as mothers is sleep and eat honey buns all day, give me a break. We put in just as much work as someone who clocks in and out of a job except we don’t get any days off. This makes African American families as well as Hispanic look like we are slobs. As a black woman I’m letting everyone know that this is inaccurate.

  3. Renata C. Franklin4 weeks ago

    I am a stay at home mother with my last child entering school this year. It has been the hardest years of my life. I have sacrificed much for my family and have supported my husband in his career ventures. Though I see the good that has come out of me staying at home I still have a calling in my life to develop myself further, I still have dreams. I was not placed in this world to stay at home with my children for the rest of my life but I do understand that sacrificing my family in support of another’s profit is not what I desire. If I am going to take myself out of my home and work it needs to be worth my while and owning my own business fits that bill for me. We need to understand that sacrificing family just to make money does not work, it never has. How we choose to make that money can justify our lack of presence in the home and serve as a great example for our children. I don’t want to stay broke and staying at home has placed our family in a financial disadvantage. My husband does not make a grand salary. We use to be active duty military working crazy hours and not fulfilling our responsibilities at home. Money is not always the answer. The decision to be a stay at home parent for the betterment of the family is a selfless decision but be careful to no lose yourself in the process. The family is only as strong as it’s weakest link and this job will deplete the hell out the one choosing to make this sacrifice.

    1. britt3 weeks ago

      Wow. That’s how I feel. Just like that In exact words.

  4. Patty G.4 weeks ago

    I have been a SAHM for about 27 years now. My youngest is 16, and all of my children are thankful that I was there and have repeatedly thanked me over the years for being there for them, especially after they see some of their school mates whose parents weren’t there for one reason or another. My husband and I were from broken homes and were left alone a lot, so we made it a priority for one of us to be there for our children. We stayed home sick from school alone, with no one there to take care of us because our Moms were working. It’s not fun to be a kid and not have your parent there, there is a layer of security that is missing. Was it always fun and games to be home, especially when most other women were out working? Absolutely not. But now that I am nearing the end of my journey, as my baby is getting ready to graduate next year, I will say that it was worth every moment.

  5. Adah Smith1 month ago

    Im a 29 year old mom of three and my fiance also has custody of his two we’ve been together about two and a half years and I’ve stayed home now im thinking of goin back to school and dnt knw were to start im doing it for financial freedom but most of all for my sanity, i love our five children but feel like im being left behind just raising our family before we got together i had children andvthen went back and got my high school diploma now i would like to better myself and show our children its never to late if you want to do somthing. God bless you all A.S

  6. J1 month ago

    this article is useless

  7. jason2 months ago

    Here’s what gets me. My daughter’s mom simply chooses to not work. She is content with food stamps, living in poverty with her husband in a run down trailer with no carpet, holes in the floors, no central heat or air and bugs. That’s the description my 10 year old daughter gave me of the inside of the home. She chooses to not work, always has. Was with her ex husband 8 years without a job before committing adultery, with me 7 years with only holding a job for 6 months after I threatened our relationship if she didn’t get a job because I was tired of working 3 jobs just to be broke, and has been with her new husband 4 years and still no job. She just doesn’t WANT to work. I am a full time student for radiology and a have a full time job. I am trying to set a good example for my daughter and make something of myself. To eventually get her away from poverty and show her that working hard pays off. Yet her mother always tries to drag me down with child support threats because she’s money hungry. Starting to believe I’d be better off just filing for child custody and getting my daughter away from that lifestyle.

  8. SAHM22 months ago

    I just have to say I’m 29, white, and I have a Bachelor’s degree. I’m married to a wonderful man who agrees with me that staying home is non-negotiable. I’m raising 3 small people and trying to love and nurture them, teach them, and pray that they turn out to be self-sufficient, independent adults who contribute to society. And we’re not poor; not rich, but not poor.

    63 hours of sleep?! Who are those people?! I honestly average 6. And the hours per week of childcare…uh 168!

    1. Lauren2 months ago

      That’s a percentage, not hours.

      1. Dano2 months ago

        Definitely not a percentage! If it was a percentage they would spend 135% of their time sleeping, childcare, leisure and housework.

        Also if it was 63% that would be 105 hours of sleep a week or 15 hours of sleep a day!

      2. AG1 month ago

        It’s not a percentage. 63 is the total weekly average of hours, so on average 9 hours of sleep per night vs. working moms with 8.3 hours.

  9. Lorrie loves parties2 months ago

    I am a college educated, web designer and hotel owner. My husband and I agreed it was best for the kids to have mom stay at home. Now that they are entering their teens, it’s even more important that I am here for them to help with homework, and take them to Dr’s appointments, and Kung Fu lessons. . Sleep???? Are you kidding? When the kids were young, I had very little time to myself. Now that they are in school all day, I still work on the house, our businesses, and am considering going back to school for a teaching credential. Both my kids are honor students and one is considered special needs. (She has seizures). They are well behaved and confident. We don’t go on extravagant vacations or have the newest cars but we also have no debt and I am the happiest woman on earth!

  10. Lisa2 months ago

    I’m a mother of one child that has entered his tween years, and it seems that at this point he needs me more than ever!! I’m college educated and have worked part time at different points and lengths over the past 12 years, but have been primarily a SAHM. And I will tell you that in trying to return to work right now in an economy that has no appreciation for mothers and family time, it is nearly impossible! If you leave a profession or career track, your chances of returning are slim to none. Most of the jobs available have overly demanding hours and low pay, difficult to make the choice between family and generating income!

  11. Dee3 months ago

    I had been a broadcast news writer/producer and a teacher before I stayed at home with my boys and I believe I made the right choice. Every minute with them was a joy until they became teenagers. Then, I wished that I had something else to go to because they drove me crazy (probably didn’t help that my husband was a chronically unemployed alcoholic). Now they have entered their 20s and I’m trying to get back into the work force but it’s really hard to even know where to start.

  12. tina arnold3 months ago

    I am white withe a college degree and we are not poor.I stay at home and educate our children.We read and do not have cable TV.I do these things because it’s what’s best for our ffamily.This is the ost important job I have ever had.My pay will be when my children turn into high functioning family focused adults .

  13. Mom to 34 months ago

    I am a SAHM to 3 yr old twins and a 5 yr old. I was a news reporter/anchor for 10+ years before I decided to settle down and have a family. As a journalist, I worked 60+ hr weeks working the weekends and most holidays. (I loved it!) That was NOTHING compared to what I’m doing now. I rarely get more than 5 hrs of sleep a night and I am constantly on my feet serving my family – I’m constantly in a fight or flight mode. Being a SAHM is the most difficult job I have ever had. My girls and my family are thriving bc of what we do. I do want to add this is a very touchy subject and feel we moms should all be in support of each other’s decisions. Some days I dream of going back to work but then would I regret it? Is there really a perfect solution? I really wish we could have more stories that unite us rather than pit us against each other. (Working moms vs. SAHM) Being a mom or dad is TOUGH!!! Nothing but love going out to all the hard working parents out there.

    1. AG1 month ago

      When you were working, you didn’t have children. Do you think you’d get more sleep with 3 kids and a job? This isn’t about SAHMs vs. Women without children who work.

    2. Adah Smith1 month ago

      Hi i really enjoyed what you wrote because my old man works crazy hours and he has custody of his two children and i also have custody of my three so full-time i raise five, ages 4,6,8,8,10, and im goin crazy i loved working but since we’ve been together I’ve stayed home and its been about three years now and im thinking of goin back to school so i can better myself and at the same time not be so depressed, because being a real full-time mom is hard and mentally draining sometimes and no one understands the real responsibilities of being a MOM. Anyway im 29 and are finances are tight since were on one income and try raising our children right are there ways to get help with all the expenses and were would i began.

  14. Jenny4 months ago

    More time for leisure and sleep? Really? The only break I get to myself is a bathroom break and even those are interrupted. If I want leisure it has to be late at night which will take away from my glorious six hours of sleep on a good day. I’m with my children 24/7. No coffee breaks with friends either. I’m sick and tired of people putting down sahm. I take care of everything and have never understood the “sit at home watch soap opera eat Bon bon mentality”. I used to feel guilty if I get my once a year pedicure or get my hair done. Not anymore. My job is important and way under appreciated. Am I complaining? Yes. Not because I stay home but because it is an occupation no one values anymore. I was never this worked when I had a “real” job. Also I’m not implying working moms have it easy just saying a little more respect for the sahm and all moms in general. We work hard.

    1. asw4 months ago

      Yes, yes and yes! I feel ya girl. I had a series of difficult jobs before staying home. Being a sahm is very much more difficult on many levels.

    2. Lonnie3 months ago

      Well said!

    3. Sarah3 months ago

      I agree. Prior to becoming a SAHM I was in the military (which could be grueling work and long hours) and it didn’t come close to the challenges of being a SAHM. I had much more “leisure” time during my working years (peaceful lunch break, using the restroom by myself, enjoyable adult interaction etc).

    4. Leah2 months ago

      You hit the hammer right on the head. I couldn’t have said it better myself. I’m also a SAHM with my 2 children and I too am tired of working moms acting like all we do is watch TV and eat baked goods all day. I feel like there are more SAHMs who respect working moms and working moms who respect SAHMs….

    5. Leah Kabler2 months ago

      Sorry, typo error, I meant to say “you hit the nail right on the head.” lol
      But you’re still correct. Even when I go to use the restroom, my kiddo is sitting right outside the door waiting for me to come out. I consider it a great and accomplished day when I actually get to shower and sorry but I know for a fact that 63 hours of sleep a week is not at all true!

  15. Alice5 months ago

    Here’s another take on the statistics above. A majority of stay at home Moms are white, with at least a high school degree. 85% of mothers married to working husbands are not in poverty. They tend to get 43 minutes more sleep than working mothers a day. They spend almost an hour a day more investing in their children in a one on one fashion. Over half of people with bachelors degrees in this country, and a majority of women themselves believe that children are better off with one parent at home. Approximately 6 out 10 people who subscribe to the most popular religious traditions in the US believe having a parent at home is an ideal situation. Just under 1 out of 3 Moms take time off to ensure their children’s healthy development. The remaining 2 out of 3 are complaining about how expensive it is to employ these mothers to raise their own children.

    Thank you for posting such a pro-stay-at-home Mom article! :)

    1. Amy4 months ago

      I was thinking that the numbers really supported stay at home. I like your take better than Pews. It’s amazing what you can take away from the same numbers.

  16. sleepyma6 months ago

    9 hours of sleep a night for stay at home mom? I WISH! on avg i get 49 hrs/week of sleep

  17. Erin6 months ago

    The sleep statistic really made me laugh! Sixty-three hours of sleep a week, huh? What planet is this on?! I’m tired and would like to move their immediately please. Sixty-three hours of sleep a week, ha! More like thirty hours a week….at the most!

  18. Alison Moxley7 months ago

    I’m glad I read the comment section and saw that I was not the only one who found this “study” insulting in its slant. Stay at home moms are poor, uneducated immigrants who have all the time in the world for leisure and sleeping. Devaluing motherhood once again. Thanks feminism!

    1. SAHM6 months ago

      Yeah…I didn’t feel too good about this either. All statistics can be presented to show favor to a particular outcome or opinion. This one unfortunately chose to continue encouraging people to let others raise their kids so they can be flush with cash! Guess I will go get back to my bonbons!

    2. Alice5 months ago

      I would rather look to the corporate sponsors of these studies; historically they know they can pay women less – so, even if it means the destruction of the next generation of US workers – they are more than willing to slam stay at home Moms to get cheap labor.

  19. Ann7 months ago

    63 hours of sleep at night on average for stay at home mom and 58 hours of sleep otherwise? Lol. Gallup says Americans average 6.8 hours of sleep a night…and that would be less than 49 hours of sleep folks. There is no way ANY average sample of say 100 random American woman, working or not, get 58+ hours of sleep a week on average.

    The hours breakdown looks pretty bizarre and at best far fetched to me, and it’s kind of a useless article anyway because stay at home moms today often spend a few hours, maybe 5 or 10 like another poster pointed out, a week doing some kind of home business or attempt at some kind of work to try to make money. This doesn’t address that at all.

  20. Samantha Marti8 months ago

    I found this article almost comical in its condescending tone.

    1. Free7 months ago

      The article was condescending. The numbers don’t suggest anything huge so the article overcompensates with loaded terms such ‘uneducated’ and ‘poor’.


  21. Paul10 months ago

    How many families raise children that learn to live off welfare and continue to live off welfare all their lives?

    1. The Truth7 months ago

      The ones with Stay at Home Moms. So, 29%.

      1. Alice5 months ago

        Amen Jd. Couldn’t agree with you more.

      2. Amy4 months ago

        JD – Triple Amen. Supposedly people want careers and yet they want early retirement, too. Which is it? Or if I’m lucky (and I am), I can have my husband have a career and watch my own children while running the house and have something like a life.

  22. Shawnee11 months ago

    Many stay at home moms I know also do something that they can do at nap time, for a couple hours on the weekend before the kids wake up, or during night time after the kids go to bed–they write, book keep, draft legal memos, sell arbonee, scentsy, cabi clothes etc. For all extensive purposes they are stay-at-home moms. They spend their days at the playground, library, pool etc. They handle the bulk of car pooling, feeding and often bedtime. The work they do probably wouldn’t exceed 5-10 hours a week. Do these women count in your research as “stay at home” or working? Is there research that separates full time working moms from part time working moms? Because there seems to be more and more of these part timers and very little info about what qualifies as a working mom vs stay at home mom.

  23. LN11 months ago

    How many stay-at-home moms homeschool?

    My husband and I made great economic sacrifices by choice in order for me to stay at home and homeschool our children.

    My daughter entered college early and earned a degree early. My son is following in her footsteps.

    I’ve heard that homeschooling is gaining in popularity. I can’t fathom attempting to homeschool while working full time, though I’ve heard that some single moms do it. I’m wondering if the rise in stay-at-home moms is in any way tied to the rise in homeschooling, as the two seem almost inseparable in my experience.

    (And that comment about leisure and sleep? Made me laugh! It’s nonexistent for homeschool moms.)

  24. Mims12 months ago

    I really hate the way this article poses these “7 key findings”. Using terms like “poorer” and “uneducated” carry so much stigma. Why not use more accurate terms such as “low-income” and “no post-HS education”? #4 bothered me the most.

    Ironically, despite these findings, I – and I am sure many others- seem to snake right through this attempt at statistics. For example, I am a 24 year old married woman with a bachelor’s degree working very few hours (2hrs/day 5 days/week). We are somewhat low income- but DECIDEDLY so. Not by any means by necessity. I am an educated “half white half other ethnicity, born in another country and moved here when i was 5″ woman who stays at home because baby needs his momma!

  25. Diana12 months ago

    I highly disagree in saying that a stay at home mom has more time for leisure and sleep. I think that should be more clearly defined. Since I have become a parent I have has anytime but time for leisure and sleep. Being a stay at home mom is a 24/7 job, you are never off of the clock.
    Furthermore, everybody has their own reasons for a parent staying home or working. Maybe daycare in the area is too expensive? Expense of daycare is more than income? Health issues of child?

  26. Lucy12 months ago

    Thanks for your last response. I noticed a term for the children “better off” and “well off”.
    What do those terms mean? Better off than what? Well off? This must be a defined social science term that I didn’t read in the document.

    1. D’Vera Cohn12 months ago

      I think you are referring to a survey question we asked this year, the results of which are in the report. Here is what we asked: “Which statement comes closer to your view, even if neither is exactly right? Children are better off when a parent stays home to focus on the family [OR] Children are just as well off when their parents work outside the home.” As we reported, 60% of respondents say children are better off with a parent at home. We left it up to respondents to decide for themselves the meaning of “better off” and “just as well off.”

  27. Patricia12 months ago

    Why are fathers who stay at home not added into this mix? One can shop in a supermarket at any time and find just as many men wheeling a cart around with children as women. Also many men work at home and take care of the children while their wife goes to work.

    I think there is a big change developing and looking at the “old days patterns” just doesn’t cut it anymore. Think: “How many men changed diapers 40 years ago”

    1. D’Vera Cohn12 months ago

      Stay tuned…We’re quite interested in fatherhood. According to a report we published last year on Modern Parenthood (and cited in this new report), about 6% of fathers who are married or living with a partner do not work outside the home. In the past year, we also published a report on the rising number of single dads, and released a survey about “The New American Father.” You can find these reports by going to our home page, clicking on Topics, and going to Family and Relationships. Have a look!

  28. Lucy12 months ago

    I wonder about the demographic of Educated Women, Married, who left the workforce by choice to raise a family. Where is that demographic in your research. We are out there.

    With incredibly successful children :)

    1. D’Vera Cohn12 months ago

      Educated, married mothers are included in our data. In 2012, we found that among married stay-at-home mothers with working husbands (a group that accounts for most stay-at-home moms), 32% have a college education or more.

      1. Lucy12 months ago

        Is this a growing number and trend? 30% is a significant number of women in a group. How does that compare to the past 10-15 years. My experience has been more of my educated friends have left the workplace, raised successful children, and then returned when those childbearing years were completed. They used their success in the marketplace and applied that knowledge, education, and experience to their family.

  29. Mike12 months ago

    The statistic on poverty is frightning. Cohabiting and single mothers about 5 times more likely to be in poverty than married with husband working. Ouch!

  30. Gina12 months ago

    How is stay-at-home mom defined?
    Can you have a home office and still be considered a stay-at-home mom?

    1. D’Vera Cohn12 months ago

      If a mother worked for pay or profit (or in a family business) at any time in the previous year, she was counted as a working mother, regardless of whether she worked from a home office. (For data users who are familiar with the Current Population Survey, we used the WKSWORK1 variable on IPUMS.)

  31. Marilyn Maloney12 months ago

    Every family is unique. There are so many factors that determine whether or not a woman works outside the home when the kids are small. Health and behaviour issues of the children, childrens sleep patterns, how much money the father can make, how much stress a person can handle and the list goes on.
    I see no reason to research this issue. Everyone should be encouraged to do life the way it makes sense for them and their particular unique circumstances. No one should have to feel guilty about how they do motherhood, as long as the kids are being well looked after.

    Are we every going to stop trying to compare moms who stay home or work. They are all valuable to our society as long as they are also taking care of themselves!!

    Some mothers have mothers who are happy to do the childcare for no remuneration. How do you factor that group into the equation. Some women have a very sick husband or child so they must stay home. How do you factor that into it.

    It’s all just so silly to waste time with this research. All it does is make at least one group of women feel badly about themselves.

    What happened to embracing women’s choice to do motherhood the way it makes sense for themselves and their family?

    1. Deb12 months ago

      The only reason it does matter is poverty, that unpaid caregiving work creates economic vulnerability: these women aren’t non working women, and any discussion needs to reflect that and put it in context. This matters because women age and grow old, just as children grow up. Women whether working for pay or not are more susceptible to poverty in old age— because workplace and public policies are antiquated. But women shouldn’t feel guilty or divided from other women about this- we need to believe it can be different and work together.

    2. Rose5 months ago

      If research, any research, can help someone feel as if they’ve considered all points of every option before making an enormous, life changing decision (such as leaving the workforce to stay home with children), then i believe it has served a purpose greater than “making one group of women feel badly about themselves.”
      If you find this research to be silly and focused on making people feel badly about themselves, perhaps it brought to light some aspects of your own decisions that you might feel badly about. If you feel its true and you want to make a change, there is nothing greater than transparent facts to help your reevaluate your own life and make the changes you need to make to feel good about yourself and the value you contribute in whichever path you choose.
      If you feel the research is completely “silly” and none of the above applies, why not spend some of your leisure time looking up other studies that have been conducted on the topic that argue points that validate the decisions you’ve made and the reasons you’ve made them? I believe that any collection of knowledge has the potential to play a role in one’s own understanding of a situation from all angles. It is a deep understanding of all research and all perspectives that allow one to truly formulate an educated, objective opinion. Combined with a deep sense of self-awareness and understanding of one’s own priorities, an objective perspective based on your own analysis of all the information that is out there, is often the gut check most need to shape their path in a way that helps them lead a fulfilled life that they feel proud of.