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Latinas Changing The Face Of The 'Stay-At-Home' Mom

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Latinas Changing The Face Of The 'Stay-At-Home' Mom

Latinas Changing The Face Of The 'Stay-At-Home' Mom

Latinas Changing The Face Of The 'Stay-At-Home' Mom

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/113533764/113533757" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

Looming questions about whether highly educated mothers are fleeing the workplace to care for their families recently prompted census researchers to take a closer look at the nation's population of stay-at-home mothers. But the findings, which include a significant portion Latina moms, don't exactly fit the stereotype of mothers deciding to "opt-out" of the workforce. Family demographer Rose Kreider, of the U.S. Census Bureau, explains why the agency commissioned the study and tells how Latina moms are changing the perception of the nation's stay-at-home.

MICHEL MARTIN, host:

I'm Michel Martin, and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. They say it takes a village to raise a child, but maybe you just need a few moms in your corner. We visit with a diverse group of parents each week for their common sense and savvy parenting advice.

Today, we want to talk about stay-at-home mothers. For years, staying at home was the norm for most American women, especially white women. But now with women cycling in and out of the workforce, just who are the stay-at-home moms now? What goes into the decision to stay at home? Is it really a personal choice, a matter of values or opportunity? Needless to say, this is a hot topic among the moms. In a moment, we'll have a roundtable of moms and writers who've thought a lot about this.

But we're going to set the table first with Rose Kreider. She's a family demographer in the fertility and family statistics branch of the U.S. Census Bureau, which recently released a new report about today's stay-at-home moms, and Rose Kreider joins us now to talk about the new report. Welcome, thank you for joining us.

Ms. ROSE KREIDER (Family Demographer, U.S. Census Bureau): Thanks for having me.

MARTIN: So tell us about your findings. How many stay-at-home mothers are there, and what's their demographic profile?

Ms. KREIDER: Well, we looked at married mothers who have a child under 15 in the household, and her husband has been in the labor force all year last year. She reports being out of the labor force all year last year, and she says the main reason she was out of the labor force is taking care of home and family.

MARTIN: Is there a question for those who might say, well, the cost of replacing myself at home is just too high? I mean, for example, you can see a scenario where someone might be very well-educated, have lots of opportunity to get a job but simply doesn't work in a field that pays to make it financially worthwhile to work or at least in her view. Is there a way to capture that part of the conversation?

Ms. KREIDER: It's not something that we looked at. We were merely trying to get a nationally representative snapshot, a picture if you will, of who these stay-at-home moms were and compare some other basic demographic characteristics with the other moms who were married and had a child under 15 in the house.

And what we see when we look at those characteristics that the stay-at-home moms are a bit younger, more likely to have a young child, an infant, in the household. They are less well-educated, on average, and more likely to be Hispanic.

So while 16 percent of the other moms were Hispanic, 27 percent of stay-at-home moms were Hispanic, and the stay-at-home moms are also more likely to be foreign-born. So about a third of the stay-at-home moms were foreign-born, whereas it was about 19 percent of the comparison moms who were not stay-at-home.

MARTIN: This is interesting because your co-author, Diana Elliott(ph), was quoted in a report in the Washington Post last week saying that this idea of the opt-out revolution, the idea that there's this movement of highly educated and/or highly compensated women out of the workforce and into the home to take care of children, and you're saying that the data just doesn't support that idea.

Ms. KREIDER: Well, our data don't show that they're a very large part. They certainly could be there. The certainly are there to some extent as part of this whole stay-at-home group, but they are not most of the group.

MARTIN: They're not most of the group.

Ms. KREIDER: No. If I could give you a stat on the education…

MARTIN: Yeah, please.

Ms. KREIDER: The way we split it up in the table was to consider less than high school, high school diploma, some college, bachelor's degree and masters degree plus. For stay-at-home moms, about seven percent have a masters degree or more, compared with about 12 percent of the non-stay-at-home comparison moms.

The proportion who have a bachelor's degree was roughly the same. Actually, it does not differ statistically, about a quarter of the moms in either group. But if you look at the less-than-high-school, high-school-diploma-only, about 19 percent of the stay-at-home moms had less than a high school degree compared with about eight percent of the comparison moms, and 27 percent of the stay-at-home moms had a high school degree, compared with about 24 percent of the other moms.

So the group as a whole of stay-at-home moms is weighted more toward the lower end of the educational attainment scale.

MARTIN: So the stay-at-home moms tend to be younger, have a little less education, lower income and more likely to be Hispanic or foreign-born.

Ms. KREIDER: Yeah.

MARTIN: And finally, the recession is deemed to officially to have started in December of 2007. This data was accumulated largely before that. And I'm just wondering if we look at this data two years from now whether it'll be very different - any sense of that?

Ms. KREIDER: Well, like you said, these data were collected in February, March, April of 2007, so they're actually referring to labor force participation during 2006. So it is reaching back a bit. And we have the share estimate of stay-at-home moms for 2008. But like you said, we probably need another year or so to really see whether there's some effect.

Maybe these husbands have lost there job so that they would then fall out of the definition of being stay-at-home moms since they need to have a spouse who was in the labor force all last year. So we really aren't sure, you know, what effect that's going to have but we'll certainly have a look at that when we get this data.

MARTIN: Rose Kreider is a family demographer at the U.S. Census Bureau. She was kind enough to join us by phone from her office in Suitland, Maryland. Thank you so much.

Ms. KREIDER: Thanks very much.

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