The study by Stanford University and the Council on Contemporary Families found that over the last 15 years, the largest group of stay-at-home mothers actually came from the poorest groups in society - families where the husband's earnings laid in the lowest quartile of male income. In those cases, many women actually wanted to work but their skills and education would not lead to income high enough to cover childcare.
The second largest group of housewives were women married to men in the top 5% of income distribution - where there was little economic pressure for them to actually keep on working.
The study also found that over the last 35 years, mothers in the US had been entering the workforce in large numbers. In 2006, 65% of mothers of pre-school children and 79% of those with school-aged children were employed at least part-time, up from 30% and 56% respectively in 1970. "This is hardly an opt-out revolution," says Paula England, co-author of the study.
The report concluded that the key to get even more women engaged in the workforce was an equal share of child-rearing responsibilities between men and women, and a shift in employers' attitude towards greater flexibility.
More moms not 'opting out'
Stanford Knowledgebase May 2007
Review by Emilie Filou