Working Women and Mothers Opting In to Work and Career

Fewer than 8 percent of modern professional working mothers have left their work for a year or more during their prime childbearing years, and 38 percent of Generation X mothers are working full time. The 'Opting Out Revolution' that promised the number of stay-at-home mothers was rapidly increasing is a myth, according to new research. In particular, the number of professional women with young children who have remained in the workforce has skyrocketed, and the divide between the number of women with children and those without in the workforce is narrowing.

Researcher Christine Percheski, a sociologist from Princeton University, took a thorough look at employment rates of women over the last century. She studied trends of women with college degrees ranging from those born in 1906 to those who are new mothers today. What she found trounced the assumption that more and more educated women in today's workforce are abandoning career paths to reclaim their 'traditional? roles as stay-at-home moms. Instead, Percheski indicates that professional women's employment levels have made steep gains over time, especially for mothers of young children and women in historically male professions. For example, just 5.6 percent of mothers of the baby boom generation (born in the 1920s - 1930s) worked full time year round, whereas 38.1 percent of Generation X mothers work full time year round. Furthermore, about one-third of mothers of baby boomers participated in the workforce when their children were age 6 and younger, whereas more than 75 percent of Generation X mothers of children age 6 and younger are working. And it's not just more days per week for these working mothers. It's more hours per day too. Percheski showed that just 1 percent of the mothers of baby boomers who had young children worked more than 50 hours per week, whereas 10 percent of Generation X parents with young children work 50 hours or more. Just 2 percent of baby boomer mothers with older children worked more than 50 hours per week, whereas 15 percent of Generation X mothers with older children do the same.

For more information, click here or visit the American Sociological Association.

Written by: Bright Horizons Blog Editor

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