Record Number Of Breadwinner Moms

women college graduates in caps and gownsFor a while now, people have been predicting the end of men's dominance in the workplace, as men started to lag behind women in earning bachelor's degrees. Consider this a new data point in the debate: A new survey from Pew Social Trends, released Wednesday, found that 40 percent of households with children include mothers who are the sole or primary breadwinner, up from 11 percent in 1960. And in two-parent households with children, 83 percent of the mothers are just as -- or more -- educated than the fathers.

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The majority of spouses in two-parent households in 2011, when the data was collected, had a similar educational background. But in 16 percent of homes the father was better educated than his wife, and in 23 percent of those homes the woman had more education than her man. That's up from only 7 percent in 1960.

Salaries Still Lag
However, the married women -- despite their superior education -- still haven't eclipsed their men's earnings. Only 15 percent of mothers in two-parent households out-earn the fathers, up from 4 percent in 1960.

More: 10 Worst Occupations For Equal Pay

Meanwhile, the majority of women who are the sole or primary breadwinners in a household with children are single mothers (who now run a quarter of American households). Still, women have made massive gains in other areas.



For instance, women are outpacing men in the drive for higher education: In 2011, along with earning more bachelor's degrees, women earned more advanced degrees than men. And that same year, 7 women enrolled in college for every 5 men, reports the World Economic Forum.

According to a new book, "The Rise of Women," it could be men's historical advantage that is now holding them back. Males used to be able to drop out of school and land a good middle class job in manufacturing or construction, the authors explain, and earn wages comparable to better-educated women.

That legacy still leads boys to "under-invest" in school, they say, and engage less in their work. But that's a dangerous strategy; the labor market today isn't what it was in the 1960s.


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Claire Gordon

Staff Writer

Claire Gordon has contributed to Slate's DoubleX, the Huffington Post, and the book Prisons: Current Controversies. While an undergraduate at Yale University and a research fellow at Yale graduate school, she spoke on panels at Yale and Cornell, and reported from Cairo, Tokyo, and Berlin.

Follow Claire on Twitter. Email Claire at claire.gordon@teamaol.com. Add Claire to your Google+ circles.

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