National Edition

More women choosing to be stay-at-home moms, Pew study says

Published: Tuesday, April 8 2014 8:35 a.m. MDT

Chelsey Tipton watches as her daughters, Hadley and Afton, jump on a small trampoline Monday, April 7, 2014, in Pleasant Grove.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

PLEASANT GROVE, Utah — Afton, 2, and Hadley, 4, are down for a nap, so their mom, Chelsey Tipton, has a few minutes to relax and talk about why she and her husband, Will, always planned that she'd stay home once they had children.

She worked the first five years of their marriage as an orthodontic assistant, quitting right before Hadley was born. She will likely go back to work once the children no longer need her at home, she said.

"We wanted to raise them instead of having them in day care and having someone else raise them," Tipton said.

As a stay-at-home mom, Tipton is in the minority nationally. But it's also a minority that is growing. After years of declines as more mothers became employed, the number of stay-at-home moms is now increasing. It rose to 29 percent in 2012, compared to 23 percent in 2000, according to the latest report from the Pew Research Center.

"The share has been on the rise since around 2000, which is a turnaround from the previous three decades, when the number of stay-at-home mothers was plummeting," said Gretchen Livingston, a Pew senior researcher who co-wrote the report. "And stay-at-home moms are not by any means a monolith. While 70 percent are the more traditional married women with working husbands, three in 10 are not traditional. I'm not sure if people realize that."

Most of the other stay-at-home moms are single. They are not cohabiting, although some live with an adult relative. Of the single stay-at-home mothers, 71 percent live in poverty, even if they do live with another adult, Livingston said. Only 15 percent of married stay-at-home mothers live in poverty.

The report notes that stay-at-home mothers include those who say they stay home to care for their family, but also those who cannot find work, are disabled or are enrolled in school. The number who can't find work is up to 6 percent from 1 percent in 2000.

By the numbers

"The recent turnaround appears to be driven by a mix of demographic, economic and societal factors, including rising immigration as well as a downturn in women's labor force participation, and is set against a backdrop of continued public ambivalence about the impact of working mothers on young children," the report said.

The ambivalence refers to survey results included in the report showing that while Americans are much more accepting of mothers working outside the home than they were in 1970, 60 percent believe that having a parent at home with young children is ideal — although the number who achieve it falls well below that.

Livingston said the share of kids with a traditional stay-at-home mom has dropped by half since the 1970s.

Close to two-thirds of stay-at-home mothers are married with working husbands. They are also the most likely group to say they are home by choice to care for families. Most of them do not, as some have claimed, qualify as highly educated and well-off. In 2012, what have been called "opt-out mothers" — those with at least a master's degree and family income exceeding $75,000 — accounted for only 5 percent of married stay-at-home moms with working husbands.

Other stay-at-home mothers include the aforementioned single mothers (20 percent), cohabiting mothers (5 percent) and those who are married to a husband who does not work (7 percent). The report says only 41 percent of those who are single and 64 percent of those who cohabit say they are home mainly to care for family.

"They are more likely … to say they are ill or disabled, unable to find a job or enrolled in school," the report says.

Other factors

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