How Motherhood Is Changing Dramatically—in 11 Graphs

Moms are different, these days. They're more likely to have gone to college, more likely to work full-time, less likely to have more than two children, and less likely to be married than previous generation. To the data ...

Mothers with infant children in the U.S. today are more educated than they have ever been... [Pew Social Trends]

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... because women, in general, are much more likely to have gone to college. [Pew Social Trends]

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Moms are working as hard as ever -- but they're spending more time in offices than at home ... [Pew]

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... as a result, moms and dads are more similar now than ever. For most of the 20th century (and before), parents specialized. Dad worked for money. Mom worked at home. But as female education increased -- and mid-century technology made housework less time-intensive -- moms and dads became less specialized. More moms worked more for money. More dads worked more at home.

There is still a gap: 43 percent of married mothers are employed full-time, compared with 88 percent of married fathers. Full-time workers are those who usually work 35 hours or more per week. Moms, for example, are much more likely to do the "dirty work" of child care while fathers are more likely to spend a greater share of their time playing with kids or doing home maintenance, like mowing the lawn. But as you can see, it's a closing gap. [Pew]

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The more kids you have, the less likely you are to work. Think of it this way. Each additional child reduces a typical mom's likelihood to be in the workforce by about 5 percentage points, according to 2005 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. It is also the case that mothers with infant children are the least likely to work, and participation rates rise as children enter their early teen years. So what we're also seeing in this graph is that the more children you have, the more likely you are to have a very young child whose care is more time-intensive. [BLS]

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Middle-class moms are the most likely to be in the labor force. This graph, also from 2005 BLS data, shows that women are most likely to work when their husband's wage puts them in the middle quintile of earners. This speaks to the rise of dual earner households, which has helped middle-income families keep up with inflation as mid-skill work for men has suffered with the decline of manufacturing. [BLS]

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Birth rates have fallen tremendously for all education levels ... but, somewhat surprisingly, the drop has been steepest among mothers with less education. [Pew Social Trends]

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Childless fortysomethings are a growing reality. Not having kids by your 40s is nearly twice as likely as it was 40 years ago. [Pew]

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Single moms are a growing reality, too -- at every income level, every education level, among whites, blacks, and Hispanics. As the New York Times showed, the share of households with married parents has declined for each third of earners. The decline has been especially steep among the poorest third. [NYT]

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More births are happening outside of marriage at practically every level. The rise of unwed moms is a cultural and economic mystery that we unpacked here and here, but the big story is that the share of births occurring outside of marriage is increasing across demographic groups ... [NYT]

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Marriage is in outright decline at every income level *except* the top five percent. If you're wondering why there are so many unwed moms, the answer isn't that there are so many more babies. As you recall from the top of the post, fertility has declined among most groups. Instead, the answer is that there are fewer marriages. Marriage rates dropped more than 20 percent for the bottom half of female earners since 1970. They have only increased among the richest five percent. High earning women are much more likely to be married than they were 40 years ago. [Hamilton Project]

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Derek Thompson is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where he writes about economics, labor markets, and the entertainment business.


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