9 critical facts about American Families and Work

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A new report by the president’s council of economic advisers lays out nine critical facts about American families and work which highlight the changes necessary to sustain U.S. long-term economic growth and improve the well-being of American families.

According to the White House, trying to balance breadwinning and caregiving responsibilities without the support of work-family policies designed to help families navigate these complexities is leaving too many families stressed, exhausted, and burdened by work-family conflict.

Fact 1: Mothers are increasingly the household breadwinners:

Mothers are bringing home more of the family income than ever before. It is increasingly a necessary source of funds to pay for childcare, housing, transportation, and other essentials. More than 40% of mothers are now the sole or primary source of income for the household. This reflects both a rise of single mothers, 65% of whom participate in the labor force, and the fact that more married women are out-earning their husbands. In addition, most of the growth in family incomes over the past several decades has come from women’s rising earnings.

Fact 2: Fathers are increasingly family caregivers:

Dads are increasingly playing the role of the primary caregiver in the household. Today one in five fathers are now the primary caregiver of preschool-age children when the mother is employed. In the past 25 years, the number of stay-at-home dads with a working mom doubled. In the past four decades, the number of father-only families more than tripled, and currently 7% of families with children are father-only families.

Fact 3: Women make up nearly half of today’s labor force:

Today’s workforce is comprised more equally of men and women than in the past. Today women make up 47% of the labor force, compared to 38% in 1970. While women continue to work fewer hours than men on average, women are working more hours than they used to. The lesson is clear: if we want to increase the pace of economic growth, we should make it easier for more men and women to participate in the labor force.

Fact 4: Women are increasingly among our most skilled workers, attaining
the majority of college degrees, and deepening their work experiences:

Women are fast becoming our most educated workers—they are attending school at higher rates, and they are entering a wide range of careers and deepening their work experience. Women’s educational attainment grew during the 1970s and 1980s, catching up with college-going rates of men. In the early 1990s, women were as likely as men to graduate college, but women’s growth in educational attainment has continued and today substantially more women than men attend and graduate college. The education pattern of
young workers makes it clear that women will soon be the majority of college-educated workers. There is more work to be done in getting women into predominately male-dominated occupations and men into female-dominated occupations.

Fact 5: Most children live in households where all parents work:

Today, across married and single parent families, all parents are working in more than six out of every 10 households with children, up from four out of 10 in 1965. This includes both dual-earner couples as well as single working parents, both of which have been increasing.


Fact 6: Caregiving doesn’t end when the children are grown: Eldercare is a
growing responsibility of workers.

There are many people who need care besides children: the elderly and those with disabilities including grown children, spouses, siblings, and returning veterans. Most people care for someone besides themselves or a child during their lifetime. Approximately 40 million Americans (16% of the population aged 15 and older) provide unpaid care to an elderly relative or friend each year.

Fact 7: Men and women alike face challenges as they try to balance work
and family:

Men and women are increasingly pressed for time and, as a result, struggle to meet their work and family responsibilities. Dads’ desires to be active caregivers and to share parenting with their partners has likely contributed to the unprecedented level of reported conflict between work and family among men.

Fact 8: Many workplaces have not kept up with the needs of 21st century workers and families:

Workers struggling to balance their work and family obligations are increasingly choosing to work for employers that offer flexibility, and workers, in some cases, are leaving jobs that don’t offer the flexibility or time off they need to address their family responsibilities. Overall, a third of workers have passed up a job because it conflicted with family obligations.

Fact 9: Providing workplace flexibility and paid leave strengthens families, businesses, and our economy:

Policies that increase workplace flexibility, such as job sharing, phased retirement of older workers, flexible hours, and use of telecommuting, allow workers to continue making productive contributions to the workforce while also attending to family and other responsibilities.

For the full report from the White House Economic Advisers click here.


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