Who’s breadwinning? Working mothers and the new face of family support
Published date: 04 Aug 2013
Download full publication Purchase via print on demand
Working mothers are ‘breadwinning’ – earning as much as or more than their working partner or bringing in the sole household income – in record numbers. But who are these new breadwinners? How has the pattern of maternal employment changed over the last few decades, and in the last few years of straitened finances in particular? And is public policy geared up to deal with the new and difficult reality that currently faces many families?
Over 2.2 million working mums are now breadwinners – an increase of 1 million since 1996/97 – which means that almost one in three of all working mothers with dependent children are now the primary breadwinner for their family. However, behind these numbers is a great diversity of experiences which reflect increasingly dynamic family lives as well as changing economic pressures.
The analysis in this report explores these trends and how they affect different groups of women and different kinds of households. In doing so it unequivocally demonstrates how vital mothers’ incomes have become to the economic survival and wellbeing of a rising number of families.
Yet despite this profound social change, many working mums – the majority of whom also take primary responsibility for care – still face significant barriers to entering and remaining in work. This report also considers the specific steps that could be taken to address these barriers, which include a lack of flexible work opportunities, unaffordable childcare and gendered parental leave entitlements based on outdated stereotypes.
Among this report’s key findings are that:
- The proportion of working mothers in couples who are breadwinning has increased, and the number of breadwinning cohabiting mothers has doubled, since 1996/97.
- There has been a substantial increase in the employment rate of lone parents since 1996/97.
- Mothers with degrees are more likely to be breadwinners than lower-skilled mothers: more than a third of mothers with a degree-level qualification now earn more than their partner, compared to just over a quarter of mothers without a degree.
- Breadwinning by young mothers has risen sharply in the recent poor economic climate.
Watch this short video for a more animated summary of our findings:
Dalia Ben-Galim, Associate Director for Families and Work
Spencer Thompson, Economic Analyst
In the news
Older women more likely to give up work for care duties then men
Financial Times - 29 Jan 2014
Universal childcare helps family balance
The Guardian - 13 Jan 2014
8/10 married woman do more housework than husbands
The Metro - 07 Oct 2013
Give welfare an institutional embodiment
The Guardian - 30 Sep 2013
Move from benefits to services such as childcare
New Statesman, Staggers blog - 19 Sep 2013
25 hours of free care would earn gov £20k+
The Observer - 09 Sep 2013
'Family time' makes sound economic sense
The Telegraph - 03 Sep 2013
Andrew Marr hails Familienpflegezeit
Mail on Sunday - 27 Aug 2013
Carers need more respect and support
The Guardian - 27 Aug 2013
Give carers flexible working rights says Marr
The Times (£) - 27 Aug 2013
Bosses should ditch gender assumptions
Daily Mail - 19 Aug 2013
More women are breadwinning (time:19:54)
BBC Radio 4 Woman's Hour - 16 Aug 2013
Study reveals more UK women breadwinning
Sky News - 05 Aug 2013
Scots women are UK's top breadwinners
The Scotsman - 05 Aug 2013
Women are breadwinners in third of Scottish homes
The Herald - 05 Aug 2013
More women becoming main family breadwinners
Evening Standard - 05 Aug 2013
2 million mums beat hubbies wage
The Sun (£) - 05 Aug 2013
Two million mums now family's main earner
Sunday Mirror - 05 Aug 2013
Editorial: we can learn from Germany
Independent on Sunday - 05 Aug 2013
Rise in mums as main earners
City AM - 05 Aug 2013
More mums bring home the bacon
Independent on Sunday - 04 Aug 2013
Huge rise in number of women who are family breadwinners
The Observer - 04 Aug 2013
Two million mothers breadwinning
Sunday Telegraph - 04 Aug 2013
Buck up, lads, UK has 2m do-it-all women
Sunday Times (£) - 04 Aug 2013
You may be interested in...
IPPR in the news
Spencer Thompson on small firms, jobs and sick pay (7min)
BBC Radio Essex - 22 Apr 2014Graeme Cooke on alternatives to payday lenders (45min)
BBC Radio 4 Today - 22 Apr 20141% increase in NI rates could bring in £4bn each year for NHS
The Independent - 22 Apr 2014One-off payday-loan levy would help fund affordable lending
The Guardian - 21 Apr 2014
Church of Scotland welcomes IPPR plan for affordable lenders
The Herald - 21 Apr 2014Call for clampdown on payday lenders
The Times - 21 Apr 2014We must do everything we can to help SMEs carry on the good work
The Independent - 21 Apr 2014Most of these elderly people have a simple need – not to be on their own
The Observer - 20 Apr 2014
One in four small firms plans to hire this year
The Telegraph - 19 Apr 2014Wales says no to Scottish independence
WalesOnline - 19 Apr 2014Ministers are 'not trusted'
Daily Mirror - 14 Apr 2014A real alternative to loan sharks
Sunday People - 14 Apr 2014
Politicians of all stripes suffer sharp fall in trust
Telegraph - 14 Apr 201436% have faith in the parliamentary system
Metro - 14 Apr 2014Labour pledges to introduce Regional Ministers
ITV News - 09 Apr 2014Putting the voice of English regions at the heart of decision-making
The Independent - 09 Apr 2014
Labour's plan to 'bust open' civil service
Guardian - 09 Apr 2014Young electorate showing disenchantment with today’s politics
Financial Times - 08 Apr 2014Labour's plans to boost Whitehall diversity
Evening Standard - 07 Apr 2014Dugher plan to 'bust open' Whitehall to 'working class'
BBC News Website - 07 Apr 2014