Over the last several decades, the increasing proportion of mothers moving into employment has had substantial consequences for the everyday lives of families with children. Maternal employment adds to the financial resources available to families and is often the only source of income for families headed by single mothers—although if child-care services are purchased and unsubsidized, they may offset a substantial percentage of lowwage mothers’ earnings.
Maternal employment rates for all mothers with children under age 18 increased steadily from 53 percent to 63 percent between 1980 and 1990 (see Figure ES 3.2). From 1990 to 1997, rates increased at a slower pace from 63 percent to 68 percent. This pattern of increasing maternal employment was evident for all mothers, regardless of the age of their children.
Differences by Age of Child. The percentage of mothers who are employed increases with the age of the youngest child for all time periods presented in Table ES 3.2. In 1997, 57 percent of mothers with children under age 3 were employed, compared with 64 percent and 74 percent for mothers with youngest children ages 3-5 and 6-17, respectively.
Differences by Marital Status. Throughout the period between 1980 and 1997, divorced mothers had higher rates of employment than never-married or currently married mothers (see Table ES 3.2). However, the gap narrowed over the period as employment increased from 62 percent to 69 percent for married mothers and from 40 percent to 57 percent for never-married mothers. In contrast, there was only a slight increase from 75 percent to 77 percent for divorced mothers.
Differences by Race and Hispanic Origin. In 1997, 69 percent of white mothers, 65 percent of black mothers, and 53 percent of Hispanic mothers were employed (see Table ES 3.2). Black mothers were the most likely to be employed full-time (55 percent). All three groups substantially increased their rates of employment between 1980 and 1990 and have continued to increase their rates of employment during the 1990s.
Full-Time Versus Part-Time Employment. Among all employed mothers, 50 percent were working full-time in 1997 (see Table ES 3.2). Employed mothers with older children were more likely to work full-time than those with young children, with rates ranging from 57 percent for mothers with children under age 3, to 74 percent for mothers with a youngest child between the ages of 6 and 17. Divorced mothers were more likely to work full-time (77 percent) than never-married mothers (57 percent) and married mothers (69 percent). Black mothers who were employed were more likely to work full-time (55 percent) than white mothers (48 percent) or Hispanic mothers (41 percent).
Figure ES 3.2 Percentage of mothers in the United States with children under age 18 who were employed, by age of youngest child: Selected years, 1980-1997
Source: Unpublished tables, Bureau of Labor Statistics, based on analyses of March Current Population Surveys for 1980, 1988, 1990, and 1994-1996.
Table ES 3.2 Percentage of mothers in the United States with children under age 18 who were employed, full-time and part-time,a by age of youngest child, marital status, and race and Hispanic origin:b Selected years, 1980-1997
|Age of youngest child|
|Under age 3||37||47||50||52||54||55||57|
|Married, spouse present||62||63||66||67||67||68||69|
|Race and Hispanic origin|
a Percentages for 1980 are not presented separately by marital status and full-time versus part-time due to incompatibilities with definitions used in later years. Sums may not add to totals due to rounding.
b Persons of Hispanic origin may be of any race. Estimates for whites and blacks include persons of Hispanic origin.
Source: Unpublished tables, Bureau of Labor Statistics, based on analyses of March Current Population Surveys for 1980, 1988, 1990, and 1994-1997.
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