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 at the Pew Research Center's Social & Demographic Trends Project.

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

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  1. sleepyma1 month ago

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

  2. Erin1 month 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!

  3. Alison Moxley2 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. SAHM2 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!

  4. Ann2 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.

  5. Samantha Marti3 months ago

    I found this article almost comical in its condescending tone.

    1. Free2 months ago

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


  6. Paul5 months ago

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

    1. The Truth2 months ago

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

      1. Jd4 days ago

        We’re not all poor and uneducated. In fact, many of us are smart enough to have learned early on that the whole career-thing is complete BS. The man (or men) who own the company you work for profits from your feminism: you need a career, he gets cheap labor. Real empowerment means saving enough to afford to not have work. Duh. Who WANTS to work. The goal of working is retirement, if it’s not-you’re doing it wrong. “Careers” are just carrots on sticks that idiots with boring lives chase around. You’re never gonna catch it, you’ll never be fulfilled by the chase, and your poor little kids spent their days in a daycare facility. A child-care factory. Worst of all, is you paid $$$ for it. Suckers!

  7. Shawnee6 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.

  8. Mr. CHFWD6 months ago

    Everyone has heard how hard it is to be a stay-at-home mom. What about being a come-home-from-work dad? comehomefromworkdad.wordpress.com #CHFWD

  9. LN6 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.)

  10. Mims7 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!

  11. Diana7 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?

  12. Lucy7 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 Cohn7 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.”

  13. Patricia7 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 Cohn7 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!

  14. Lucy7 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 Cohn7 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. Lucy7 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.

  15. Mike7 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!

  16. Gina7 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 Cohn7 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.)

  17. Marilyn Maloney7 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. Deb7 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.