The job market hasn’t always been kind to young mothers of color. Rising child care costs, a badly lagging minimum wage, and persistently high unemployment has forced many of these women out of the workforce and into the role of the stay-at-home-mom.
We’ve been trained to believe the typical stay-at-home-mom is a rich, white suburbanite. However, new research from the Pew Research Center refutes this stereotype and paints a picture of today’s stay-at-home-mom as a young, woman of color, often born outside of the United States, less likely to have a college education, and more likely to live in poverty than working moms.
According to Pew, the number of stay-at-home-moms in the United States with children under the age of 18 has grown to nearly 30 percent. Up from 23 percent in 1999.
As Pew notes, “with incomes stagnant in recent years for all but the college-educated, less educated workers in particular may weigh the cost of child care against wages and decide it makes more economic sense to stay home.”
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, between 1985 and 2011, the cost per week for child care for a family with a working mother and children under the age of 15 increased from $84 to $143 a week. Meanwhile, wages have remained unchanged or even dipped depending on education level. Even more alarming, states have failed to keep up with the demand for child care assistance and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits that so many mothers and families depend on has been cut. Not to mention the threat of additional cuts from Paul Ryan’s disastrous budget has created a full-blown crisis for young working moms.
For many women, especially those in low-wage positions–if your chances of receiving a promotion are low, and full-time child care for one child can average anywhere between $4,000 to $16,000 a year–why remain in the workforce if child care costs are more expensive than your salary?
Today’s mothers should be able to choose if they want to remain in the workforce or become a stay-at-home-mom. They shouldn’t be forced to make these decisions based on the high costs of child care or low wages. All families deserve access to quality, affordable child care and jobs that pay a living wage.
This article was originally printed on SEIU on April 15, 2014. Reprinted with permission.
Author: Courtney-Rose Dantus