mothers financial risk, economy women, women workforce

Are Gas Prices and Stagnant Wages Driving Women Back Home?

August 14, 2008 08:59 AM
by Shannon Firth
A struggling economy appears to be putting mothers at financial risk, whether they stay at home or continue working.

More Women Staying Home

When economists first noticed the number of stay-at-home mothers increasing, they attributed the trend to a cultural shift. Recently, however, Louis Uchitelle of The New York Times argued that the shift is not cultural but economic, asserting that the economic downturn has driven an unprecedented number of women out of the workforce. In 2000, 74.9 percent of working-age women held jobs in 2000; as of June 2008, that percentage had dropped to 72.7 percent, and “those 2.2 percentage points erase more than twelve years of gains for women.”

Alexis Allman of Marysville, California, a stay-at-home mother of three, left her job two years ago because the hour’s drive and daycare costs made it “too expensive to work.” Soaring gas costs have put returning to the office even farther out of reach.

Conversely, in South Carolina, the poor economy is driving stay-at-home mothers and retirees to return to the work force. Sonya Ouzts, another mother of three, asserted, “The economy is so bad you have to get back out there.”

Opinion & Analysis: Stay-at-home moms at risk financially, regardless of economy

In 2007, Leslie Bennetts, author of “The Feminine Mistake,” argued that by giving up her job and becoming financially dependent on her husband, the stay-at-home mom is making herself both psychologically and financially vulnerable: “Our culture programs women to believe that they can depend on a man to support them—the classic feminine mistake—and fails to explain how often that alluring promise is betrayed, whether by a change of heart or a heartless fate.”
In 2003, the Associated Press reported on Census Bureau data that indicated a rise in the number of stay-at-home mothers over the previous nine years. While some attributed this uptick to a strong economy, the data also showed that the children of married stay-at-home mothers were “less well-off economically than those in families where both parents [were] employed.

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