Looking at the “female breadwinners” report


If you’re reading this, you’re presumably enough of a denizen of the left blogosphere to have caught that a report came out, about how it’s women that are now bringing home at least the majority of the dough in about 40% of American households. However, the context in which it’s generally been presented, is how people at a certain “news” organization, run by and for atavistic fools, reacted. I’m looking at the report itself.

These “breadwinner moms” are made up of two very different groups: 5.1 million (37%) are married mothers who have a higher income than their husbands, and 8.6 million (63%) are single mothers.

The income gap between the two groups is quite large. The median total family income of married mothers who earn more than their husbands was nearly $80,000 in 2011, well above the national median of $57,100 for all families with children, and nearly four times the $23,000 median for families led by a single mother.

(Pew Research)


When asked if they agree or disagree that it is generally better for a marriage if a husband earns more than his wife, some 28% of survey respondents say they agree and 63% disagree. When a similar question was asked in 1997, 40% said they agreed. In the new survey, adults with a high school diploma or less were twice as likely as those with a college degree (35% vs. 18%) to say it is generally better for a marriage if a husband out-earns a wife. There were no significant differences between men and women on this question.


Compared with single mothers who are divorced, widowed or separated, never married mothers are significantly younger, disproportionally non-white, and have lower education and income. Close to half of never married mothers in 2011 (46%) are ages 30 and younger, six-in-ten are either black (40%) or Hispanic (24%), and nearly half (49%) have a high school education or less. Their median family income was $17,400 in 2011, the lowest among all families with children.

In other words, what media have been focusing on is the dwindling number of stuffy “traditionalists” who still get all worked up about women earning more than men. What’s important in this report is what the numbers say about the challenges faced by young, poor mothers, and their children, in a society where gross inequalities in access to resources (especially education) and opportunity are only worsening, thanks largely to the massive failures of imbecile conservative policy. And the screaming need to reverse that policy, and more.

It’s also important not to overlook the role of “men” that are too irresponsible and gutless to step up, when the bill for their pleasure-seeking comes due. I haven’t been able to find a good study, on the demographics of men that don‘t contribute to the support of their offspring (urban v. rural, etc.). But I know from personal observation that the right-wing stereotype – that they’re all inner-city minorities – is not correct.

Here’s a little more context:

Based on wage figures, half of Americans are in or near poverty.

The IRS reports that the highest wage in the bottom half of earners is about $34,000. To be eligible for food assistance, a family can earn up to 130% of the federal poverty line, or about $30,000 for a family of four.

Even the Census Bureau recognizes that its own figures under-represent the number of people in poverty. Its Supplemental Poverty Measure increases, by 50%, the number of Americans who earn between one-half and two times the poverty threshold.