Breadwinning Mothers: Understanding the Magnitude and Consequences of Mothers’ New Economic Responsibilities for Children
Over 40% of minor children in the U.S. rely exclusively or primarily on their mothers’ earnings for financial support in cross-sectional surveys. Yet cross-sectional data understate mothers’ role as their family’s primary earner. Using longitudinal SIPP panels beginning in 2014, and using a threshold of 60% of total household earnings to determine primary earning status, we find that in the 18 years following their first birth, mothers average 4.32 years as their families’ primary earner. Mothers with some college education but without a diploma spent the most years as primary-earners, about 5.35 years on average, as did mothers with nonmarital first births, about 5.41 years. More than 70% of American mothers can reasonably expect to be the primary earners in their household at some point during their first 18 years of motherhood.
Jennifer Glass is the Centennial Commission Professor of Liberal Arts in the Department of Sociology and Research Associate in the Population Research Center at the University of Texas, Austin. She has published over 60 articles and books on work and family issues, gender stratification in the labor force, mother’s employment and mental health, gender integration in the STEM labor force, and religious conservatism and women’s economic attainment, with funding from the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. Her work has appeared in the American Journal of Sociology, American Sociological Review, Social Forces, Journal of Marriage and the Family, Journal of Health and Social Behavior
, and Demography
, among others. She has received the Jessie Bernard Award from the American Sociological Association, the Harriet Presser Award from the Population Association of America, the Reuben Hill Award from the National Council on Family Relations, and thrice been nominated for the Rosabeth Moss Kanter Award for Excellence in Work-Family Research. She has chaired the Sex and Gender Section, the Family Section, the Organizations and Work Section, and has been Vice-President of the American Sociological Association. She chaired the Social Science and Population (B) study section of the National Institutes of Health from 2017-2019. Her most recent projects explore the intensifying demands on U.S. mothers to financially support their children and their capacity to meet those demands, focusing on wages and working conditions in male and female dominated jobs. She is also researching whether and when governmental work-family policies improve or undermine parents’ and children’s mental and physical health, and the role of work-family reconciliation policies in mothers’ disadvantage in the labor market.