The media raved about Pew Research Center’s new findings about “breadwinner moms” dominating 40 percent of American households. A “you go girl!” sentiment was radiating everywhere and feminists struck their fists in the air with pride. However, reality sets in when Independent Women’s Forum (IWF) reminds us that these “breadwinner moms” are mostly poor single mothers forced to be the head of the household to make ends meet.
Only 37 percent of these breadwinners are married, working moms, MN has previously reported. The media neglects to focus on the fact that a whopping 63 percent of these breadwinners are just single moms with a low income. “Breadwinner mom” is a term that has the positive connotation of mothers earning more cash than their male partners. However most of these so-called “breadwinner moms” do not even have a male partner and are upholding the primary-earner role out of necessity.
“The [Pew Research Center] really did us a disservice by shaping the discussion as breadwinner moms when the story is really about single moms,” said Kay Hymowitz, a member of the panel discussion hosted by the IWF and The Heritage Foundation. “Sloppy research,” another panelist called it.
The all-female panel discussion which took place on Tuesday, called “Breadwinner Moms: Truth Behind the Trend,” discussed why the underlying reasons behind the uptick of breadwinner moms is nothing to celebrate. Firstly, the median income of a large majority of these breadwinners is only $23,000 a year compared to the $80,000 yearly income of married mothers.
Even more disheartening, “a third of [the breadwinner moms] are not working at all, meaning they’re much more likely to be on welfare,” said Jennifer Marshalls, a panelist who is the director of domestic policies at The Heritage Foundation. Yet, the Pew Research report on female breadwinners becomes a false story on “well-educated, married women out-earning their husbands even though they make up a minority of the population in question,” she adds.
The panelists also point out that this breadwinners report isn’t only a story about the growing number of single mothers, but it’s also a narrative about the downfall of men. Because men are facing persistent joblessness, women must take on roles as the primary income earner because they don’t have a choice. “We do not want to see gender equality at the expense of [another] gender,” Sabrina Schaeffer says, a panelist and executive director of IWF.
The panelists lament that the for the past several decades, America has seen an economic shift that hasn’t worked very well for working class men, poor men, and less-educated men.
Cathy Reisenwitz, another panelist, blames the devolution of men in the workplace on the disproportionate number of men being incarcerated; they are branded as unemployable when they are released. She also added that public education needs to be reworked. Many male graduates have their degrees but they’re completely unprepared for the real world.
Hymowitz adds to the discussion by mentioning that the ultra-feminist philosophy may take a toll on the male psyche. “The more we say ‘yay women you can do it on your own!’, the more we’re saying to men that they’re not needed; they’re expendable,” she said.
While the term “breadwinner moms” is truly a curtain behind dwindling male earners and an increase in poor single moms, there are some positive facts the panelists brought up. Since the recession, more mothers are “taking on jobs that require more education and higher skill sets” than ever to make ends meet at home, Schaeffer said. Although most “breadwinners” are poor single mothers that take the role reluctantly, the panelists all agree that it’s commendable that women have been able to step up and fulfill a traditionally male position.
To stimulate some discussion, Schaeffer also wonders whether or not women taking on a role that is traditionally male can threaten a healthy relationship. “If women are the primary breadwinners, is this even good for sustaining a happy marriage?” What do you think?