Social Explorer Logo

Behind the Rise in Female Breadwinners

THURSDAY, MAY 30, 2013

A new report by the Pew Research Center finds that female breadwinners are on the rise--Mothers are now the sole or primary provider in 40% of households with children, up from just 11% in 1960.

Trends in family structure, labor force participation, and income are behind this shift. Using Social Explorer’s tools, you can investigate these findings further.

According to the 2011 American Community Survey (ACS), more than one in four households with children were single female parent-headed homes (26.9 percent), which is two and a half times the rate in 1970 (10.7 percent).

Map of Single Female Parent-Headed Homes (American Community Survey 2006-10)


Women are participating in the labor force at growing rates.  Between 1970 and 2011, the percent of females in the labor force increased from two in five to three in five (41.4 percent to 58.9 percent).  Meanwhile, male participation in the labor force decreased from 76.6 percent to 69.3 percent.

Map of Female Participation in the Labor Force (American Community Survey 2006-10)

While more women are becoming household breadwinners, men still out-earn their female counterparts.  2011 ACS median income data show that men earn over one and a half times as much as women ($31,460 compared with $20,525).

Median Income for Females (age and over, American Community Survey 2006-10)

However, this gap is much smaller than it was in 1970, when men earned three and a quarter times as much as women ($40,957 compared with $12,607, adjusted for inflation to 2011).  (Click here for more on this shift in wages.)

For more on wage differences between the gender, how households have changed over the years, and more, visit Social Explorer's map and report tools.

Back to all posts