Who Is the Breadwinner in Your Family?

It is all over the news. According to the recent Pew Research Center survey, women are the breadwinners in 40% of households with children under 18 years of age.  Compare that to 11% in 1960.  The way the news is being regurgitated over all types of media seems to indicate that women have achieved progress in the workplace. Have they really?  Is it good for women that many of them have become breadwinners?  Good for men?  For children?  Or all of the above?  The jury is still out on that one.

What I know is that the news obscure the fact that women take home 77 cents for each dollar earned annually by men in similar jobs. And even in female-dominated fields, there is a gender wage gap.  If a woman happens to be the sole breadwinner in the family, and there are many in the 40%, we can see how the 77 cents pack a negative wallop in supporting a household with children.  Women have to work harder and longer to catch up and put the proverbial bread on the table.

Illustration by Harry Campbell for Time Magazine

Illustration by Harry Campbell for Time Magazine

What happened to “equal pay for equal work”? The Equal Pay Act was passed in 1963.  We are actually celebrating its 50th anniversary!  According to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, it will take 47 years to achieve equal pay at the rate we are going. Most of the narrowing of the wage gap happened in the 90s.  We are now at a virtual standstill.  The gap exists in spite of the fact that women now receive 57% of college degrees, 60% of graduate degrees and a majority of entry-level positions. The pundits on the left blame the institutional, government and societal barriers, such as lack of quality day care, paid sick leave and lack of transparency regarding pay, to name a few. The pundits on the right blame internal barriers – they say it is the fault of women or it is really their choice. And Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook says that women in the workplace have yet to learn how to “Lean In“.

Could it simply be good old prejudice – that the old stereotype still prevails about women not being able to lead or not being ambitious enough to reach the top?  With a very polarized society, I guess equity won’t happen in my lifetime.  The glass ceiling and the sticky floor will continue to be the bane in women’s lives, at home and in the workplace.

Bringing home the bacon

Bringing home the bacon

So, who is the breadwinner in your family?  The traditional family where the wife is a stay-at-home Mom and where the husband “brings home the bacon” is going the way of the dinosaurs.  Is there really a choice to stay traditional or even to have one stay-at-home parent, no matter the gender? Wages of Romney’s 47% have stagnated through the years.  Obama’s middle class has been suffering the same fate.  The 1% continues to take a disproportionate share of the national income.

For the rest of us, the reality is that there is no choice — it takes two to put bread on the table.

This entry was posted in College Education, Equality, Family, Mitt Romney, Money, Politics, President Barack Obama, social issues, The Other 98%, Uncategorized, Women's Movement, women's rights and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Who Is the Breadwinner in Your Family?

  1. Writerlious says:

    I am the breadwinner in our household! But only by a few thousand dollars.

    Unfortunately, I think what women have gained in the workplace, they have not gained in the household. I think women are still largely expected to keep the house in order, take care of the kids, cook meals, and be well-groomed and perfectly made-up. I know men do a lot more in the household than they used to, but I sometimes have the feeling the feminist revolution has been a double-edged sword. Women get access to the workplace, but at a cost–we must now be “superwomen.”

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    • esmeraldalyn says:

      A New York Times opinion piece by Stephanie Coontz stated that there is a ” motherhood penalty” in the workplace (which is 5% less per child from the study of Stanford’s Shelley Correll) and that most of the progress in wage parity has gone to childless women. This is blatant prejudice because employers assume that women with children have a greater probability of leaving the workplace temporarily in the future. As long as we do not have the availability of affordable quality day care, working women have to continue having two full-time jobs — at home and in the workplace. Yes, that is the definition of “superwomen.”

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  2. i reside in MItt Romney’s 47%. Single mother, stagnant wages, make putting the bread on the table difficult but i am grateful that i can do it. i have heard successful women refer to women like me as “white bread workers”. not nice words. i work hard and my work makes a contribution. I have helped both my children get through college. to hear Social Security & Medicare referred to as “entitlements” that us white bread workers don’t deserve is ludicrous. When did “entitlement” become a disparaging word? i believe that children are choice and if you make that choice someone should be home as much as possible or why have them. Cornell West has written about this generation being the first “self raising” generation. i am more worried about that than any glass ceiling. while i celebrate the success of any woman who has taken command of their careers and made it to the top, i don’t understand this argument. nor do i have the patience for it.

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    • esmeraldalyn says:

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts regarding this very important issue. I hope I do justice to your very thoughtful comment with my response.

      Women should support each other no matter what life stage they are in. Unfortunately, polarization is occurring even among women. We are all coming from different places, making choices depending on our own circumstances and priorities. We should celebrate each other’s successes and help in whatever way those who are struggling. We all make our contributions to society in our own way. I believe Professor Cornel West started talking about this “self-raising” generation when we, as a society or the vocal parts of it, started looking at government as the “enemy” and at the “it takes a village” philosophy as anathema. When did that tipping point occur? Professor West has pointed out time and again that we do need each other. However, he also points out that this generation is basically motivated by money and is no longer socially engaged. I think the younger generation is actually very civic-minded and socially responsible. The debate goes on, and like you, I am losing patience. All we are asking for is equity and fairness. We need both reflection and action on this matter, not gridlock.

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      • likeitiz says:

        I believe that women in the workplace have made many inroads. But the path to true parity is still a long, windy, and steep climb. I read recently, that the U.S. is a clear example of “cutthroat capitalism” and that if the U.S. becomes a “cuddly capitalism” like Sweden (long maternity and even paternity leaves, daycare, child allowances and medical support for parents, guaranteed pensions, etc.), it would lose its edge as the leading economy in the global market and it may even slow down the economic growth of the entire world. This is because the U.S. is the leader. (See NYTimes http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/05/29/why-cant-america-be-sweden/?nl=opinion&emc=edit_ty_20130530) I find the logic of these economists very shortsighted and skewed. I believe countries like Sweden do get it. And we don’t. We want Health Care to be earned, not our rights as citizens just the same way we have the right to protection by our laws, to the services of firefighters and the police. Raising children was never recognized as a career choice nor has it even been recognized as a noble profession. Is it because the majority of child-rearing is done by women that it can be taken for granted? When more and more fathers stay home or play a bigger role in raising the children, maybe this will change.

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  3. Hello, I’ve discovered you by way of Peace, Love and Great Country Music’s blog. Congratulations on earning the Best Moment Award.

    I’ve always been interested in the divided split of men and women wage earners and the same set of job performance expectations. The only place I know where equal pay can be found in today’s society is within the federal government’s civil service pay grades and as you climb closer to the top, competing with the ‘boys’ has it’s own price.

    Due to my husband’s illness, I’ve been the wage earner for about 15 years of our married life and have watched the divisions closely. It’s also the reason, along with the ability to have adequate health care coverage, to stay with my government job when Fort Ord (near Monterey, CA) closed in 1994.

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    • esmeraldalyn says:

      The Institute for Women’s Policy Research found that the narrowest gender wage gap exists where there is transparency in the pay scale, such as in unionized firms and civil service jobs. Unfortunately, many employers still retaliate against workers who share wage and salary information. This is true in the finance industry where the gender wage gap is widest. The Paycheck Fairness Act is a proposed federal bill which will penalize employers who engage in this type of retaliatory behavior. Unfortunately, the bill has failed to pass Congress several times.

      Thank you very much for your comment.

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  4. mogispie says:

    My husband has yet to graduate but has a full time job now. When he was studying full time, I of course was the sole bread winner. Even now that he is working, I still earn more than him. When he graduates I suppose he’ll surpass me. I’ve noticed that in my generation, the females are earning more than their spouses whereas our parents are mostly male breadwinners with moms at home.

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    • esmeraldalyn says:

      Many households have wives who are sole breadwinners or are earning more than their husbands. I was in that position for a while but my husband was not bothered by it. In fact, he quite enjoyed the things we could do because of my income, like travel to exotic places. Having said that, I think it will take a while for most men to let women have equal economic power at home and the workplace.
      Thank you for your comment.

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  5. esmeraldalyn says:

    Here are the findings from the Pew Research Center Study — of the “Breadwinner Moms,” 37% are married mothers who earn more than their husbands and 63% are single mothers.

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  6. auntyuta says:

    I want to congratulate you, Mary-Ann, for picking up this very important issue. You’re very right to ask all these questions. You say it takes two to put bread on the table.
    I don’t quite understand what is meant by the very first statement that 40% of women with children are the breadwinners. Does it mean they are sole breadwinners or do they just participate in the bread winning together with men? I mean how many women are actually sole breadwinners?

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