You read it here first

You knew this would pull me out of my blog hiatus, right?  The Washington Post has a front page story today that highlights the new Census findings that "stay-at-home moms" are typically younger and in less affluent families.  Thus, the media obsession with highly compensated professional women who drop out of the workforce to be full-time parents is "largely beside the point."

Except that, this isn't such a new point.  I pointed it out — based on Census data — oh, about four years ago.  It wasn't so neatly packaged then, but the underlying data has been available for years and doesn't look like it's changed very much.  (I'll be interested in seeing what the figures look like in a couple of years, when they're available for the recession period, but this is 2007 data, pre-recession.

There is some new info in the report from the American Community Survey, mostly about the geographic distribution of families — previous tables were only based on the Current Population Survey, which doesn't have representative samples of small stats.  Check out Figure 8, on page 15.  Overall, Northern and Eastern states have a higher percentage of two-income married parent families that average, Western states have a lower percentage.  But New York is lower than average.  I'd love to see the NY-specific data on income — New York is  a big enough state that it's probably possible to do the run without having huge margins of error.

6 Responses to “You read it here first”

  1. Jody Says:

    Damn it, I ALWAYS forget this when the comments on this issue heat up. And it’s a really important point to make.
    I think these stats reveal that SAHM status is an embedded life-stages issue, and probably intimately connected to pre-parenthood work status and pay, plus availability of affordable, reliable, quality childcare. Your thoughts?
    (BTW, you just know that Hirschman especially but Bennett, too, would probably say that young, poor women’s choices aren’t going to set back feminism the way that professional women’s choices do. Snort.)

  2. Madeleine Says:

    It would be interesting to see if the NY State data is broken down geographically – NY is really not one kind of place. Maybe that’s true of every state, but for NY in particular I think the size of the city would make a big difference in averages for the state. Or it would be interesting to see urban/suburban/rural data for the whole country.

  3. jen Says:

    What slays me is how the Times (and Belkin) won’t cop to how wrong it was/is. In fact they seem to be doubling down — their recent piece portrayed the opt-out thing as reversing now that economic times are tougher. When in fact neither thing is true, if you actually talk to people who weren’t your roommates in college.
    This more than anything bothers me about the coverage of the issue: the willingness to completely ignore lower SES demographic groups, even to the extent of not bothering to check any data at all. I wonder, would this level of reporting be tolerated on other topics (or ten years ago, before budgets got so tight)?

  4. K Says:

    Good to read your posts again!
    So now where will I go to get insane media coverage of Harvard-educated women who have left the work force to raise their children?
    At our school, we are finding that we have more at-home parents this year, but that is largely due to lost jobs, not to a choice to stay home.

  5. urbanartiste Says:

    I would love to read some statistics on SAHDs, especially in light of how many women are supporting families and recession job losses had a higher effect on men. Does research classify unemployed men with children Stay at Home Dads?

  6. Alison Says:

    I’m an insane Harvard-educated woman who is at home raising my children. Oh wait, that wasn’t the question.
    I am generally suspicious of stats on this topic because many mothers who consider themselves SAHMs earn a little money sometime during the year and thus are in the workforce, or even work part-time with flexible hours and are the primary child-tender. I am one of them.
    That said, I don’t know many other SAHMs with Masters degrees, so maybe there is some validity to the article.

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