After three decades of decline, the percentage of mothers who are staying home with their children has increased in the last 10 years, but part of the trend has occurred because women who want to work haven't been able to find jobs since the recession, a new study has found.
According to an analysis of Census Bureau data by the Pew Research Center,
the share of mothers who do not work outside the home rose to 29 percent in 2012, up from a modern-era low of 23 percent in 1999, and higher than in 2008 at the height of the recession when 26 percent were stay-at-home mothers.
"When women were asked why they stayed home rather than work, most said it was to take care of their children," D'Vera Cohn, the report's author, told The Washington Post.
"But we saw an uptick in mothers saying it was for economic reasons."
In 2012, 6 percent of stay-at-home mothers said they were at home with their children because they could not find a job, compared to 1 percent in 2000 who said that was the reason.
The poll notes that the recent rise in stay-at-home motherhood may in part reflect a dip in female labor force participation after decades of growth, but that the trend is also "set against a backdrop of continued public ambivalence about the impact of working mothers on young children."
"Public opinion has grown more supportive of working mothers over time," the poll says.
"However, Americans also continue to think that having a mother (or parent) at home is best for a child. In a recent Pew Research survey, 60 percent of respondents said children are better off when a parent stays home to focus on the family, compared with 35 percent who said children are just as well off with working parents."
Sociologists say they are still trying to understand the mix of demographic and economic factors that are contributing to the increase of stay-at-home mothers.
"There surely is a slowdown in the meteoric growth of women working outside the home," Andrew Cherlin, a sociologist at Johns Hopkins University, told the Post.
"From 1948 to 2000, the number of married women working skyrocketed. Now it's plateaued, and it's very hard to know exactly what's causing it."
Despite the recent shift, 20 percent of all married mothers with children under 18 stay home, half of what it was in 1970, according to Pew. One in five children in the United States currently lives with a stay-at-home mother married to a working husband. In 1970, 41 percent of children did.
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