Working Mothers Contribute to Economic Security of American Families

Earlier this year, the Joint Economic Committee of the United States Congress issued a report on the portrait of the typical American family and the increasingly important role played by working mothers. The report concluded what many of us already know–long gone is the stereotypical model of a father going to work every day to support his family while a mother stays home to care for their children. Today, 70 percent of mothers are in the labor force and their earnings are not a luxury but a necessity.

Some interesting facts from the report include:

  1. One in three mothers working outside of the home is their family’s only wage earner.
  2. Fewer than one in five families currently fit the 1950s stereotype of a father going to work and a mother staying at home.
  3. Mothers in the workforce pay a financial penalty earning 3 percent less than women without children while fathers in the workforce receive a bonus, earning 15 percent more than men without children.

The report also concludes that the U.S. lags behind other industrialized countries in family-friendly policies including paid family leave, universal child care, workplace flexibility and retirement benefits for time spent out of the workforce caring for family members. Other countries have found ways to value the time parents spend caring for their families and recognize the role parents play in developing human capital and shaping the future workforce, giving credit to women (or men) for time spent out of the workforce to care for children or other relatives.

The report also provides a breakdown of economic well-being of mothers on a state-by-state basis. The report was prepared by the Democratic staff of the Joint Economic Committee and is an interesting read, particularly as to the troubling gender gap pay concerns.