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For Your Marriage

Marriage Today covers current trends and research pertaining to marriage and family life in today's world.

Majority of U.S. Mothers Work Outside the Home, Love Parenting

In honor of Mother’s Day (May 14, 2017), the Pew Research Center released six facts about mothers in the United States. The data covered topics such as age, education, immigration, maternity leave, and sense of parental satisfaction.

  1. Of all the women giving birth in the United States, 82% are millennials (born between 1981 and 1997). There were 16.2 million millennial mothers in 2015, a number that has been growing rapidly in the past two decades. However, many millennials are waiting longer to have children. About 40% of millennial women aged 18 to 33 were mothers in 2014, while 49% of women from Generation X (those born between 1965 and 1980) were already mothers during that same age range. The mean of women’s age at the birth of their first child was 26 in 2013, in contrast to age 21 in 1970.
  2. In general, women are having fewer children today than in previous years. In 1976, about 40% of women between the ages of 40 and 44 had four or more children, while about 25% had two. In 2014, however, 14% of mothers in this age range had four or more children, while about 41% had two. Women with at least a master’s degree are more likely to have children today than in the past. About 60% of highly educated women had two or more children in 2014, up from 51% in 1994; approximately 22% of these women had no children in 2014, down from 30% in 1994.
  3. Immigrant women account for a greater share in U.S. births than years past. While births for U.S.-born women have decreased over the past few decades, births for immigrant women have increased. In 2014, there were 58.3 births per 1,000 American-born women, while there were 84.2 births per 1,000 immigrant women. These immigrant women are more likely than American-born women to be married.
  4. Most mothers in the U.S. are a part of the work force; in 2014, about 70% of mothers with children under the age of 18 worked outside the home, up from 47% in 1975. Almost half (46%) of both parents in two-parent households work full time, up from 31% in 1972. Working mothers are more likely than working fathers to say that balancing work and family is difficult.
  5. Mothers with a total household income of $75,000 or more take twice as much maternity leave, on average, than lower-income mothers (those with total household income of $30,000 or less). Higher-income mothers took an average of twelve weeks, while lower-income mothers took an average of six weeks. About half of all mothers on maternity leave wished they had taken more time off, while 36% said they took as much as they wanted. And while most mothers who took maternity leave said it did not negatively affect their job, one quarter said that maternity leave had a negative impact.
  6. The majority of mothers with children under 18 say that being a parent is “very or extremely important” to their identity, with 90% responding that parenting is rewarding and enjoyable most of the time. Yet mothers whose oldest child is under the age of 5 are more likely to say parenting is enjoyable all of the time (54%) than mothers whose youngest child is 13 to 17.

These findings are important for any time of year, not just Mother’s Day. For those working in marriage and family ministry, it is important to be familiar with data trends and particular situations to provide the best support for mothers both in and out of the Church.