Mother or breadwinner? Number of Utah women who work far below national average


A new Pew Research Center study finds that 40 percent of American women in households with children are the primary breadwinners for their family, but in Utah, the trend is much less pronounced.

According to demographics given by the Utah Department of Workforce Services, 59 percent of married women with kids are in the state’s labor force, compared to 70 percent nationally. In homes with a mother and a father, women are less likely to participate in the labor force in Utah than across the nation.

“Women’s roles have changed, marriage rates have declined — the family looks a lot different than it used to,” said Kim Parker, associate director with the Pew Social & Demographic Trends Project. “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.”

The findings by the Pew Social & Demographic Trends Project showed that about 79 percent of Americans oppose the notion that women should return to traditional roles but only 21 percent of those polled said the trend of more mothers with children working outside the home is a good thing for society.

“I believe the Mormon culture has a lot to do with why (more) women stay at home in Utah,” Samantha Bayton said, BYU student from American Fork. “Growing up a lot of my friend’s mothers, including my own, didn’t work.”

Another component to explain the lower than average number of working mothers is that in Utah less than 12 percent of children live in single-mother homes compared to 23 percent nationally. Two parent homes with married couples nationally make $80,000 in median family income compared to $23,000 for single mothers. Both single and married breadwinner moms have grown, but since there is such a low percentage of single mothers in Utah, there is not as great a need for them to be the sole provider for the family.

In every state the current condition of the economy has played a role in these growing numbers.

“Whenever there is a recession you see lower unemployment rates for women than for men,” said Nic Dunn, spokesman for the Utah Department of Workforce Services. “This is because men often work in industries that are typically more affected by recessions like construction, manufacturing and mining for example. Also, when husbands lose work, women often enter the workforce to find work.”

Regardless of the discrepancies in the numbers, Utah women are consistent with the national upward trend of women entering the workforce. Analysts believe that in the next few years there will be a continued increase of women in the workforce.

“The general trend of more women being breadwinners across the nation appears to be an underlying trend that is occurring regardless of the recession,” Dunn said.

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