Monday, December 11, 2006

More Moms Staying Home in Baby's First Year

New research from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that over the past decade, there has been an 8% drop overall in job-holding by mothers of infants. Working new moms are still a majority, but just barely: 51% of infant's mothers work outside the home.

The higher the husband's income and the mother's education, the more likely the mom is to stay home. But across the board, mothers of newborns are more likely to stay home than they used to be. Those in the middle of the income range – the 40th to 80th percentile – were particularly likely to stop jobs and interrupt careers to be with babies.

There was also a drop for mothers of toddlers and preschoolers, but it was not as large as the drop for new moms.

Perhaps we could see a social norm that mothers would get, and take, a year's leave from their jobs with each child. That is a centrist position that might be feasible, especially as mothers are already voting with their feet – and their forgone paychecks -- in this direction.


Unknown said...

My first child went to preschool at 18 months and the second child at 15 months. I enjoyed the time they were at home & they enjoy being in preschool now that they are older. It would have been nice to have a year off paid -- I know my Canadian friends get about a year at 90% pay. Must be nice!

SPorcupine said...

I've seen several reports on these studies that claim mothers are "dropping out." That's a nutty over-interpretation. A 30-year-old could spend five years at home, then spend another 30 years in the workplace before retiring at 65. And this study speaks of one year of a child's life, which is no sign at all of a wholesale evacuation of the work force.

Having run a small business, though, I do not see how a legal requirement for leave can work across the economy. Too many employers will need an immediate replacement and need to make that job a permanent offer.

I'd rather advocate for creating lots more part-time jobs, so that the parent who left work can start back up more slowly if that's what works for them. That also can be a life-saver for those same small businesses, rather than the burden that giant leave requirements would provide.

Gruntled said...

Yes, I see the burden that a legal requirement for a year's leave would pose, especially on small businesses. Still, if such a leave were partially subsidized, and became more of a social norm than it now is, many more moms could find more accommodating niches in the economy. Not every job would be suitable for a long leave, but it would be better for the culture if we tried to maximize the accommodation of new moms, rather than minimize it.