Mothers Are Now Primary Breadwinners in 4 out of 10 U.S. Households

Pew Research has released data from a recent study which found mothers are now the top earners in 4 out of 10 (40%) households in the United States. That’s up from 1 in 10 households (11%) in 1960. It’s also a growth trend that will not reverse, which calls attention to the need for employers to provide flexible scheduling, for the gender pay gap to close, and for adequate child care policies to be enacted.

Kim Parker, associate director with the Pew Social & Demographic Trends Project, shared her insights about the study findings and earnings trends with the Associated Press. She explains, “This change is just another milestone in the dramatic transformation we have seen in family structure and family dynamics over the past 50 years or so. Women’s roles have changed, marriage rates have declined — the family looks a lot different than it used to. The rise of breadwinner moms highlights the fact that, not only are more mothers balancing work and family these days, but the economic contributions mothers are making to their households have grown immensely.”

Some of the key findings reported by Pew Research include:

  • The number of top breadwinner mothers, both married and single, has grown over the past five years.
  • The total family income is higher when the mother, not the father, is the higher earner.
  • Married mothers are increasingly better educated than their husbands.
  • Most people do not agree that it’s bad for a marriage if the wife earns more than the husband.

It’s important to point out that much of the data used to develop the study findings came from 2011, including the 2011 U.S. Census Report. It’s highly likely that these numbers have climbed even higher over the past two years.

You can follow the link to download the full report from Pew Research.

Susan Gunelius

Susan Gunelius is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Women on Business. She is a 20-year veteran of the marketing field and has authored ten books about marketing, branding, and social media, including the highly popular 30-Minute Social Media Marketing, Content Marketing for Dummies, Blogging All-in-One for Dummies and Kick-ass Copywriting in 10 Easy Steps. Susan’s marketing-related content can be found on,,,, and more. Susan is President & CEO of KeySplash Creative, Inc., a marketing communications company. She has worked in corporate marketing roles and through client relationships with AT&T, HSBC, Citibank, Intuit, The New York Times, Cox Communications, and many more large and small companies around the world. Susan also speaks about marketing, branding and social media at events around the world and is frequently interviewed by television, online, radio, and print media organizations about these topics. She holds an MBA in Management and Strategy and a Bachelor of Science degree in Marketing.

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  1. Jim Nico says

    Thank you so much for providing this excellent article. And thank you to Kim Parker as the perfect timing of this research by Pew. While in the past so many men have taken on the roles as breadwinners, now perhaps, with so many mothers in this role–men will offer equal respect, equal rights, and equal pay for the recognition these mothers deserve. Everyone can win here–with more money coming into the household, more jobs created for child care, and more mothers gaining respect and help long deserved.. I have never known a man to turn down a higher pay check and now I am hoping this need to fortify the household will catalyze men to help women and mothers everywhere.

  2. Susan Gunelius says

    Jim, You’re absolutely right. Everyone will ultimately win if gender inequality becomes a thing of the past.