Data on unpaid work:

Miranda, V. (2011), “Cooking, Caring and Volunteering: Unpaid Work Around the World”, OECD Social, Employment and Migration Working Papers, No. 116, OECD Publishing.


Download the White House’s new survey of the economic and social status of American women, chock full of data on employment, family structures, gender divisions of labor, etc. – here:

Women in America: Indicators of Economic and Social Well Being


Women Lead in Unpaid Work

Not only do women earn less for similar work, they also do more work for no pay at all.

Here’s a look at how much more unpaid work women do than men, around the developed world:

Source: Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, national time use surveys.

The chart is from an Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development working paper titled “Cooking, Caring and Volunteering: Unpaid Work Around the World.” As you can see, in every country for which the organization had data, women spent much more time than men on unpaid work like child care and household chores like cooking and cleaning. Across the O.E.C.D., the average gap between time spent by women and by men on unpaid work is about two and a half hours.

On child care in particular, mothers spend more than twice as much time per day as fathers do: 1 hour 40 minutes for mothers, on average, compared to 42 minutes for fathers.

The numbers vary, of course, depending on whether each parent also has a paid job, but perhaps not by as much as you’d think, especially for the men. On average, working fathers spend only 10 minutes more per day on child care when they are not working, whereas working mothers spend nearly twice as much time (144 minutes vs. 74) when not working.

Tue Mar 1, 12:55 pm ET

Five graphs show state of American women

The White House dropped a statistics-stuffed report compiling reams of federal data about the state of American women today.

None of the information is exactly new, but a number of the graphs featured in the report caught The Lookout’s eye–they offer a compelling illustration of the status of women today. For instance, more young women are going to college than their male counterparts for the first time in U.S. history. But, women are much more likely to go into lower-paying fields than men when they graduate–thereby perpetuating the long-standing wage gap between the genders.

And women–especially minority women–are still more likely to live in poverty than men. Check out five of the graphs from the report below.

Women are waiting longer on average to have their first child:

As they delay childbirth, more women are going to college and graduate school. In fact, women just recently passed men in the race to a bachelor’s degree, and that gap appears to be widening.

But that increased education hasn’t yet resulted in women earning as much as men in the workplace:

Maybe that’s in part because women spend more time than men working outside of the labor force. That gap holds even when you compare married working women to married working men. Men spend a greater percentage of their time on leisure activities, while women work on household tasks and caring for other family members:

Women do continue to live longer than men and suffer less frequently from heart disease–yet many chronic diseases afflict women at a higher rate than men. Women are more likely to suffer from depression, mobility problems and arthritis, for example. The chart below shows that women are also more likely to be obese:

Senior Obama White House adviser Valerie Jarrett said on a conference call with reporters that the president will use the data as a “tool” to inform policy initiatives, though she would not name any specific new moves the administration is contemplating in the realm of gender.

“You really have to look at the whole story of a woman’s life,” Jarrett said. “This report gives us a comprehensive framework to do that.”

July 9, 2010, 4:56 pm

In Part-Time Jobs, Women Out-Earn Men


When it comes to part-time work, the gender wage gap goes the other way: Women generally out-earn men.

In the last week, we’ve been plucking choice items from the Labor Department’s latest report on women’s earnings, including one post on the evolving gap between pay for women and men.

The numbers in that post were for weekly wages for full-time workers. But some readers questioned whether it was fair to treat all full-time workers as equivalent. Different workers choose to allocate more or less time to their “full-time” careers, decisions driven in part by other commitments like family responsibilities (which still fall primarily, though not entirely, to women). One person might work 60 hours a week and another 35; all things being equal, surely we should expect the former to earn more.

Thankfully the Labor Department also reports statistics on typical weekly pay broken down by hours worked, for workweeks ranging from just a handful of hours to over 60 hours. Let’s take a look at the pay gap by these workweek lengths:

DESCRIPTIONSource: Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Highlights of Women’s Earnings in 2009“Data refer to the sole or principal job of full- and part-time workers, for wage and salary workers.

As you can see, among workers who work at least 40 hours a week, men still significantly out-earn women.

But as soon as you drop below that 40-hour-a-week mark, the reverse happens: Most women make more than men who work equivalent hours, with the exception of workers who put in fewer than five hours a week.

There are a few things to consider when puzzling over why these pay gaps might exist.

One is that these pay statistics do not control for what kinds of jobs these workers are in. And the type of work — whether it be education versus finance, doctor versus nurse, manager versus assistant — accounts for a large portion of the variation in the pay that people receive.

Additionally, men and women are not equally distributed amongst these different workweek lengths. Women are much more likely to be in part-time jobs than men. In fact, in 2009, 66.6 percent (about two-thirds) of American workers logging fewer than 35 hours in the typical workweek were women. By comparison, just 45.1 percent of workers logging more than 35 hours a week were women.

In other words,the “typical” workweek length for men versus women is very different. Men who work part-time are deviating from the “male” workweek norm, a fact that may say something about their quality, ambition or priorities, or at the very least how employers view their quality, ambition or priorities. Likewise with women who deviate from the “female” norm and work full-time.

November 16, 2009, 5:25 pm

Women Earn Less Than Men, Especially at the Top


In most jobs, the gap between men’s and women’s earnings narrows greatly when you adjust for factors like career path and experience. But at the top of the income scale — jobs paying more than $100,000 — the salary gap between equally qualified men and women is still vast.

That’s the takeaway from a vast trove of data being released by PayScale, a company that tracks self-reported salary data.

Millions of Web-surfers share their compensation data with, usually with the goal of finding out if their pay is comparable to that of other workers with similar experience and credentials. (In other words, PayScale has a big, but not randomized, sample; more caveats about their numbers are discussed here, in our write-up of their data on salaries by college.)

The company decided to analyze its data to see if it could help explain observed differences in what men and women earn, a subject that has long intrigued economists and women’s rights advocates. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, women earned a median weekly salary in 2008 that was about 80 percent of the pay for men.

Because women and men tend to go into different kinds of jobs, the company looked at what happens within any given career. PayScale chose 90 common careers that its researchers thought gave a useful cross-section of the labor market: 30 jobs that were primarily held by women (e.g., dental hygienists, of whom 95 percent are women in PayScale’s database); 30 jobs that were primarily held by men (e.g., electrical engineers, of whom 90 percent are men); and 30 that had roughly equal representation between men and women (e.g., pharmacists, of whom 49 percent are women and 51 percent are men). For each particular job, they had anywhere from several thousand to tens of thousands of data points.

The company then examined the data two ways.

First, it looked at the median pay of men compared with women within a given field, both when they started their jobs and at mid-career, using the raw data that workers had provided. By these calculations, they found that within almost every one of their 90 chosen careers, and across careers at every level of education, men earned higher pay than women.

Below is a look at the median pay of men compared with women in each of the 90 jobs examined, with each dot representing a different job. The diagonal line represents where the dots would lie if men and women earned exactly equal pay. Notice how many of the dots fall below that line, indicating that women earn less than men. (Full data set  here.)


Then PayScale’s researchers decided to look at how non-gender-related factors affected salaries.

They adjusted the salaries based on hundreds of different factors they had data on, including location of the job, industry, size of the company and the budget a person managed, as well as his or her education and certifications, special skills and length of experience in a field. In some cases, they adjusted the salaries based on industry-specific data (e.g., how many beds are in the hospital a nurse works in).

The goal was to start with the typical characteristics of a male worker in a job, then adjust the characteristics of the typical woman in the job to match those of the average man to see if these two prototypical employees would earn identical salaries.

And for most jobs, they almost did.

Here are the median salaries for men and women in each of the 90 careers chosen by PayScale, after controlling for outside factors than can affect pay other than gender. Notice that for lower-paying jobs, the dots are much closer to that diagonal line representing equal pay. (Full data set  here.)


In other words, for most careers the company studied, PayScale found that the pay gap is largely the result of outside factors. Within a specific job, before controlling for outside factors the typical female worker earns pay that is only 90 percent of the typical male worker’s pay; after controlling for these variables, she earns 94 percent of the typical male worker’s pay. For jobs paying below $100,000, the gap narrows further.

The implication is that in most jobs where a wage gap exists, it is probably not due to overt discrimination, with bosses deciding, Mad-Men-style, that women should receive unequal pay for equal work. Rather, in most jobs, the different career choices that men and women make — or perhaps the different career opportunities men and women have available to them — account for big differences in pay, says  Al Lee, PayScale’s director of quantitative analysis.

But even though the gap narrows when you control for these factors, it is still large when you look at a subset of the careers PayScale examined: the high earners. In jobs that pay more than $100,000, women earn just 87 percent of what men receive, even after adjusting for outside factors. You can see this in the second chart above — around the $100,000 mark, many more dots start to fall beneath the equal-wage line.

So what is so magical about crossing the $100,000 salary mark that allows men to earn so much more than equally qualified women?

Surely everyone will have a pet theory. Mr. Lee, for his part, suggested that higher-paid jobs often have less concrete or quantifiable measures of productivity and duties.

After controlling for outside factors, some of the biggest gender pay gaps are in jobs like chief executive (in which, after PayScale adjusted the data, women earn 71 percent of what men earn), hospital administrator (women earn 77 percent of what equally qualified men earn) and chief operating officer (women earn 80 percent of what equally qualified men earn).

In each of these jobs, performance quality is a relatively subjective measure. Compare those jobs to positions like engineers, actuaries or electricians, where the criteria for a job well done might be relatively more concrete or measurable — and where the salaries earned by men and women are roughly equal.

In other words, theorizes Mr. Lee, jobs in which quality is easier to measure are more likely to be compensated based on merit, so equally qualified men and women are likely to receive equal pay. On the other hand, in jobs where quality measures are more subjective, meritocracy may not rule, and men may be better compensated for reasons other than their qualifications. For example, perhaps men are subconsciously viewed as more competent than women, or are more adept at negotiating for raises.

But then again there are tons of exceptions to this rule, where jobs with more nebulous duties are relatively egalitarian and jobs with more concrete descriptions are not.

There are certainly alternative explanations, including factors that PayScale did not control for. For example, Mr. Lee and his team were not able to control for hours worked each week, since they didn’t have that data. That seems like a pretty significant determinant of income to me.

I’m also curious to know what these trends would look like if PayScale had attempted to conduct the same analysis for every job in their database for which they had a decent sample size; perhaps these 90 jobs are not, after all, representative of the over all job market.

But again, everyone will have a different explanation for the gap in wages. What’s yours?

How would you explain why women at the top of the income scale earn so much less than their male counterparts, even when you control for outside factors?

Gender Segregation by the Clock

Today's Economist

Casey B. Mulligan is an economics professor at the University of Chicago.

For many reasons, women are paid less than men. One is that many women have jobs with more desirable schedules.

Last week I wrote about how more women than men have been employed in payroll positions during the winter months of this recession, and how in April 2010 men regained their majority, with 50.04 percent of payroll positions. However, if you are reading this between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., there are probably more women at work than men.

The chart below displays information about the work force by time of day, based on surveys conducted by the United States Census Bureau in 1997, 2001 and 2004 (when the 2010 Census is finished, an analysis like this will be possible for 2010). The calculations in the chart are based on work on gender segregation I have been doing with Christian Ferrada, a University of Chicago graduate student.

Casey Mulligan gender work chartCasey B. Mulligan

The black series shows the number of full-time people ages 18 to 65 who are at work in nonfarm jobs at each time of day, excluding people who work from home more than eight hours a week. Not surprisingly, it is vastly more common to be at work between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. than to be at work in the evening or early morning.

The solid pink series displays the fraction of people at work at each time of day who were women, and the dashed pink shows the fraction for the entire day (weighting by the number of people at work). For example, only 32 percent of people at work at 7 a.m. were women, compared with 42 percent for the entire day.

An important reason for the time-of-day pattern of women’s share at work derives from the fact that men are more likely to have jobs that require early arrival at, or late departure from, work.

Interestingly, during the middle of the day the female share was 44 percent — two percentage points higher than the average for the entire day during the years studied. Given that 50 percent of payroll employees in April 2010 were female, we might expect that women in April 2010 would be as much as 52 percent of payroll employees at work at any time between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. — a clear majority.

By the same logic, I expect that early in the morning or late in the evening women were nowhere a majority of employees at work, even during this recession when women were often a majority of payroll employees.

The vast majority of workers perceive work from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. to be more desirable than work during the off-hours, and many of the off-hours workers are compensated with higher pay for the less desirable schedule. A variety of factors — including, some economists and many women’s rights advocates say, gender discrimination — may cause women to be paid less than men, but part of the reason may be the hours they choose to work.

The Gender Pay Gap, by State


The gender pay gap for full-time workers is smallest in the nation’s capital, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

For all full-time wage and salary workers across the country, women’s median weekly wages were 80.2 percent of men’s last year. But there is considerable variation among the states.

The map above shows median usual weekly earnings for women as a percent of those for men, for all full-time wage and salary workers in 2009.

As you can see, in the District of Columbia, the median weekly wage of full-time women workers is 96.5 percent of that for their male counterparts, far and away the most parity in the country. Coming in second is California, where women who work full-time earn 88.7 percent of what men make.

At the other end is Louisiana, where, among full-time workers, women earn 65 percent of what men bring in.

Once again, these numbers do not control for the types of jobs that men versus women go into. Additionally, as we explored on Friday, the picture might look very different if we were looking only at part-time jobs, where women tend to earn more than men.

Impact of Economic Crisis on Women and Families


The share of families with an unemployed member rose from 7.8 percent in 2008 to 12.0 percent in
2009, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. The proportion of families with an unem-
ployed member in 2009 was at its highest level since the data series began in 1994. Of the nation’s 78.4
million families, 80.4 percent had at least one employed member in 2009, down by 1.8 percentage points
from 2008.
These data on employment, unemployment, and family relationships are collected as part of the Current
Population Survey (CPS), a monthly sample survey of approximately 60,000 households. Families in-
clude married-couple families, as well as families maintained by a man or woman with no spouse pre-
sent. For further information about the CPS, see the Technical Note.
Families and Unemployment
There were 9.4 million families with at least one unemployed member in 2009, up from 6.1 million in
2008. The proportion of families with an unemployed member was 6.3 percent in 2007; it rose to 7.8
percent in 2008 and to 12.0 percent in 2009. (See table 1.)
Black and Hispanic families were more likely to have an unemployed member (17.4 and 16.9 percent,
respectively) than were white (11.1 percent) and Asian (11.4 percent) families in 2009. Most families
with an unemployed member also have at least one family member who is employed. Among families
with an unemployed member in 2009, 68.6 percent also had an employed member, compared with 70.8
percent in 2008. (See table 1.)
Among married-couple families with an unemployed member in 2009, 79.9 percent had an employed
member, down from 82.5 percent in 2008. For families maintained by women (no spouse present) with
an unemployed member, the proportion that also contained an employed member was lower in 2009
(46.1 percent) than in 2008 (49.1 percent). For families maintained by men (no spouse present), the pro-
portion fell to 52.6 percent in 2009 from 57.3 percent in 2008. (See table 3.)
Families and Employment
The share of families with an employed member was lower in 2009 (80.4 percent) than in 2008 (82.2
percent). The likelihood of having an employed family member declined over the year for families of
all major race and ethnicity groups. (See table 1.)
In 2009, families maintained by women with no spouse present were less likely to have an employed
member (72.8 percent) than were married-couple families (82.4 percent) or families maintained by men
with no spouse present (79.8 percent). The share of families with an employed member declined over
the year for all family types. (See table 2.)
Both the husband and wife were employed in 48.5 percent of married-couple families in 2009, com-
pared with 51.4 percent in 2008. Married-couple families in which only the wife worked accounted for
8.4 percent of all married-couple families in 2009, compared with 6.9 percent in 2008. The husband was
the only employed member in 19.6 percent of married-couple families in 2009, essentially unchanged
from a year earlier. (See table 2.)
Families with Children
Forty-four percent of all families included children (sons, daughters, step-children, and adopted child-
ren) under age 18. Among the 34.8 million families with children, 87.8 percent had an employed parent
in 2009, down from 90.0 percent in 2008. The mother was employed in 67.8 percent of families main-
tained by women with no spouse present in 2009, and the father was employed in 76.6 percent of those
maintained by men with no spouse present. Among married-couple families with children, 95.7 percent
had an employed parent in 2009, down from 97.0 percent in 2008. Both the mother and father were em-
ployed in 58.9 percent of married-couple families with children in 2009, also lower than a year earlier.
(See table 4.)
The labor force participation rate—the percent of the population working or looking for work—for all
mothers with children under 18 was 71.4 percent in 2009, unchanged from 2008. In 2009, the partici-
pation rate for married mothers with spouse present (69.6 percent) was lower than the rate for mothers
in other marital statuses (75.8 percent). Married mothers were equally as likely to be employed as
mothers in other marital statuses, but their unemployment rate was substantially lower—5.8 percent in
2009, compared with 13.6 percent for mothers in other marital statuses. Unemployment rates increased
in 2009 for mothers of all marital statuses. (See table 5.)
Mothers with younger children are less likely to be in the labor force than mothers with older children.
In 2009, the labor force participation rate of mothers with children under 6 years old (64.2 percent) was
lower than the rate of those whose youngest child was 6 to 17 years old (77.3 percent). The participation
rate of mothers with infants under a year old was 56.6 percent. The participation rate of married mothers
of infants (56.1 percent) was slightly lower than for those with other marital statuses (57.8 percent).
However, the unemployment rate for married mothers of infants, at 7.0 percent, was significantly lower
than the rate for mothers with other marital statuses (22.3 percent). (See tables 5 and 6.)

New Economics of Marriage: The Rise of Wives

by Richard Fry and D’Vera Cohn, Pew Research Center
January 19, 2010

Executive Summary

The institution of marriage has undergone significant changes in recent decades as women have outpaced men in education and earnings growth. These unequal gains have been accompanied by gender role reversals in both the spousal characteristics and the economic benefits of marriage.

A larger share of men in 2007, compared with their 1970 counterparts, are married to women whose education and income exceed their own, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of demographic and economic trend data. A larger share of women are married to men with less education and income.

From an economic perspective, these trends have contributed to a gender role reversal in the gains from marriage. In the past, when relatively few wives worked, marriage enhanced the economic status of women more than that of men. In recent decades, however, the economic gains associated with marriage have been greater for men than for women.

In 2007, median household incomes of three groups — married men, married women and unmarried women — were about 60% higher than those of their counterparts in 1970. But for a fourth group, unmarried men, the rise in real median household income was smaller — just 16%. (These household income figures are adjusted for household size and for inflation. For more details, see the methodology in Appendix B in the full report.)

Part of the reason for the superior gains of married adults is compositional in nature. Marriage rates have declined for all adults since 1970 and gone down most sharply for the least educated men and women. As a result, those with more education are far more likely than those with less education to be married, a gap that has widened since 1970. Because higher education tends to lead to higher earnings, these compositional changes have bolstered the economic gains from being married for both men and women.

There also is an important gender component of these trends. Forty years ago, the typical man did not gain another breadwinner in his household when he married. Today, he does — giving his household increased earning power that most unmarried men do not enjoy. The superior gains of married men have enabled them to overtake and surpass unmarried men in their median household income.

This report examines how changes at the nexus of marriage, income and education have played out among U.S.-born men and women who are ages 30-44 — a stage of life when typical adults have completed their education, gone to work and gotten married.1 Americans in this age group are the first such cohort in U.S. history to include more women than men with college degrees.

In 1970, 28% of wives in this age range had husbands who were better educated than they were, outnumbering the 20% whose husbands had less education. By 2007, these patterns had reversed: 19% of wives had husbands with more education, versus 28% whose husbands had less education. In the remaining couples — about half in 1970 and 2007 — spouses have similar education levels.

Along the same lines, only 4% of husbands had wives who brought home more income than they did in 1970, a share that rose to 22% in 2007.2

This reshuffling of marriage patterns from 1970 to 2007 has occurred during a period when women’s gains relative to men’s have altered the demographic characteristics of potential mates. Among U.S.-born 30- to 44-year-olds, women now are the majority both of college graduates and those who have some college education but not a degree. Women’s earnings grew 44% from 1970 to 2007, compared with 6% growth for men. That sharper growth has enabled women to narrow, but not close, the earnings gap with men. Median earnings of full-year female workers in 2007 were 71% of earnings of comparable men, compared with 52% in 1970.

The national economic downturn is reinforcing these gender reversal trends, because it has hurt employment of men more than that of women. Males accounted for about 75% of the 2008 decline in employment among prime-working-age individuals (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2009). Women are moving toward a new milestone in which they constitute half of all the employed. Their share increased from 46.5% in December 2007 to 47.4% in December 2009.

Overall, married adults have made greater economic gains over the past four decades than unmarried adults. From 1970 to 2007, their median adjusted household incomes, the sum of financial contributions of all members of the household, rose more than those of the unmarried.

Educational attainment plays an important role in income, so a central focus of this report is to analyze economic data by level of schooling. Through this lens, too, married people have outdone the unmarried. The higher their education level, the more that adults’ household incomes have risen over the past four decades; within each level, married adults have seen larger gains than unmarried adults. Among married adults at each education level, men had larger household income increases than did women. Those who gained most of all were married male college graduates, whose household incomes rose 56%, compared with 44% for married female college graduates.3

For unmarried adults at each level of education, however, men’s household incomes fared worse than those of women. Unmarried women in 2007 had higher household incomes than their 1970 counterparts at each level of education. But unmarried men without any post-secondary education lost ground because their real earnings decreased and they did not have a wife’s wages to buffer that decline. Unmarried men who did not complete high school or who had only a high school diploma had lower household incomes in 2007 than their 1970 counterparts did. Unmarried men with some college education had stagnant household incomes.

Unmarried men with college degrees made gains (15%), but the gains were not as great as those for unmarried women with college degrees (28%). In fact, household incomes of unmarried men with college degrees grew at half the rate of household incomes of married men with only a high school diploma — 33% versus 15%.

There is an important exception to the rule that married adults have fared better than unmarried adults from 1970 to 2007. Married women without a high school diploma did not make the same gains as more educated women: Their household incomes slipped 2% from 1970 to 2007, while those of their unmarried counterparts grew 9%. The stagnant incomes of married women without high school diplomas reflect the poor job prospects of less educated men in their pool of marriage partners. These less educated married women now are far less likely than in the past to have a spouse who works — 77% did in 2007, compared with 92% in 1970.

Continue reading the full report at

The Decline of Marriage and Rise of New Families

November 18, 2010

Executive Summary

The transformative trends of the past 50 years that have led to a sharp decline in marriage and a rise of new family forms have been shaped by attitudes and behaviors that differ by class, age and race, according to a new Pew Research Center nationwide survey, conducted in association with TIME magazine, and complemented by an analysis of demographic and economic data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

A new “marriage gap” in the United States is increasingly aligned with a growing income gap.

Marriage, while declining among all groups, remains the norm for adults with a college education and good income but is now markedly less prevalent among those on the lower rungs of the socio-economic ladder.

The survey finds that those in this less-advantaged group are as likely as others to want to marry, but they place a higher premium on economic security as a condition for marriage.

The survey also finds striking differences by generation. In 1960, two-thirds (68%) of all twenty-somethings were married. In 2008, just 26% were.

How many of today’s youth will eventually marry is an open question. For now, the survey finds that the young are much more inclined than their elders to view cohabitation without marriage and other new family forms — such as same-sex marriage and interracial marriage — in a positive light.

Even as marriage shrinks, family — in all its emerging varieties — remains resilient. The survey finds that Americans have an expansive definition of what constitutes a family. And the vast majority of adults consider their own family to be the most important, most satisfying element of their lives.

Here is a summary of the key findings of the report:

The Class-Based Decline in Marriage

About half (52%) of all adults in this country were married in 2008; back in 1960, seven-in-ten (72%) were.

This decline has occurred along class lines. In 2008, a 16-percentage-point gap separated marriage rates of college graduates (64%) and of those with a high school diploma or less (48%). In 1960, this gap had been just four percentage points (76% vs. 72%).

The survey finds that those with a high school diploma or less are just as likely as those with a college degree to say they want to marry. But they place a higher premium than college graduates (38% vs. 21%) on financial stability as a very important reason to marry.

Is Marriage Becoming Obsolete?

Nearly four-in-ten survey respondents (39%) say that it is; in 1978 when TIME magazine posed this question to registered voters, just 28% agreed. Those most likely to agree include those who are a part of the phenomenon (62% of cohabiting parents) as well as those most likely to be troubled by it (42% of self-described conservatives).

Despite these growing uncertainties, Americans are more upbeat about the future of marriage and family (67% say they are optimistic) than about the future of the country’s educational system (50% optimistic), its economic system (46% optimistic) or its morals and ethics (41% optimistic).

An Ambivalent Public

The public’s response to changing marital norms and family forms reflects a mix of acceptance and unease. On the troubled side of the ledger: Seven-in-ten (69%) say the trend toward more single women having children is bad for society, and 61% say that a child needs both a mother and father to grow up happily. On the more accepting side, only a minority say the trends toward more cohabitation without marriage (43%), more unmarried couples raising children (43%), more gay couples raising children (43%) and more people of different races marrying (14%) are bad for society. Relatively few say any of these trends are good for society, but many say they make little difference.

Group Differences

Where people stand on the various changes in marriage and family life depends to some degree on who they are and how they live.

The young are more accepting than the old of the emerging arrangements; the secular are more accepting than the religious; liberals are more accepting than conservatives; the unmarried are more accepting than the married; and, in most cases, blacks are more accepting than whites.

The net result of all these group differences is a nearly even three-way split among the full public. A third (34%) say the growing variety of family arrangements is a good thing, 29% say it is a bad thing and 32% say it makes little or no difference.

The Resilience of Families

The decline of marriage has not knocked family life off its pedestal.

Three-quarters of all adults (76%) say their family is the most important element of their life, 75% say they are “very satisfied” with their family life, and more than eight-in-ten say the family they live in now is as close as (45%) or closer than (40%) the family in which they grew up.

However, on all of these questions, married adults give more positive responses than do unmarried adults.

The Definition of Family

By emphatic margins, the public does not see marriage as the only path to family formation.

Fully 86% say a single parent and child constitute a family; nearly as many (80%) say an unmarried couple living together with a child is a family; and 63% say a gay or lesbian couple raising a child is a family.

The presence of children clearly matters in these definitions. If a cohabiting couple has no children, a majority of the public says they are not a family.

Marriage matters, too. If a childless couple is married, 88% consider them to be a family.

The Ties that Bind

In response to a question about whom they would assist with money or caregiving in a time of need, Americans express a greater sense of obligation toward relatives — including relatives by way of fractured marriages — than toward best friends. The ranking of relatives aligns in a predictable hierarchy. More survey respondents express an obligation to help out a parent (83% would feel very obligated) or grown child (77%) than say the same about a stepparent (55%) or a step or half sibling (43%). But when asked about one’s best friend, just 39% say they would feel a similar sense of obligation.

Changing Spousal Roles

In the past 50 years, women have reached near parity with men as a share of the workforce and have begun to outpace men in educational attainment. About six-in-ten wives work today, nearly double the share in 1960. There’s an unresolved tension in the public’s response to these changes. More than six-in-ten (62%) survey respondents endorse the modern marriage in which the husband and wife both work and both take care of the household and children; this is up from 48% in 1977. Even so, the public hasn’t entirely discarded the traditional male breadwinner template for marriage. Some 67% of survey respondents say that in order to be ready for marriage, it’s very important for a man to be able to support his family financially; just 33% say the same about a woman.

The Rise of Cohabitation

As marriage has declined, cohabitation (or living together as unmarried partners) has become more widespread, nearly doubling since 1990, according to the Census Bureau. In the Pew Research survey, 44% of all adults (and more than half of all adults ages 30 to 49) say they have cohabited at some point in their lives. Among those who have done so, about two-thirds (64%) say they thought of this living arrangement as a step toward marriage.

The Impact on Children

The share of births to unmarried women has risen dramatically over the past half century, from 5% in 1960 to 41% in 2008. There are notable differences by race: Among black women giving birth in 2008, 72% were unmarried. This compares with 53% of Hispanic women giving birth and 29% of white women. Overall, the share of children raised by a single parent is not as high as the share born to an unwed mother, but it too has risen sharply — to 25% in 2008, up from 9% in 1960. The public believes children of single parents face more challenges than other children — 38% say “a lot more” challenges and another 40% say “a few more” challenges. Survey respondents see even more challenges for children of gay and lesbian couples (51% say they face a lot more challenges) and children of divorce (42% say they face a lot more challenges).

In Marriage, Love Trumps Money

Far more married adults say that love (93%), making a lifelong commitment (87%) and companionship (81%) are very important reasons to get married than say the same about having children (59%) or financial stability (31%). Unmarried adults order these items the same way. However, when asked if they agree that there is “only one true love” for every person, fewer than three-in-ten (28%) survey respondents say, I do.

Continue reading the full report at

Also at, explore a set of interactive charts to see trends related to marriage, children and household composition.

Is the Recession Linked to Fewer Marriages?

by D’Vera Cohn, Senior Writer, Pew Research Center
October 22, 2010

Imagine that you see two people in the distance walking alongside each other down a busy sidewalk. Maybe they are a couple. Maybe they just happen to be heading in the same direction. In a crowd of people on a city street, it’s hard to tell.

That same challenge arises when researchers look at possible links among social, economic and demographic trends. Two trends are heading in the same direction, but are they related? Correlation, the statisticians frequently warn, is no guarantee of causation.

There is wide interest by researchers and journalists in finding data from the Census Bureau and other sources that could illustrate the impacts of the Great Recession on American life. This posting recounts a recent debate over the strength of potential links between the recent decline in marriage rates and the national economic downturn.

When the Census Bureau released its 2009 American Community Survey estimates Sept. 29, many news accounts focused on showing how the numbers illustrated the impact of the Great Recession. A number of news stories — including those in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Bloomberg news service, Associated Press and AOL news –picked up on findings that for the first time, more 25-to-34-year-olds have never married than are married. Among those ages 18 and older, 52% are married, the lowest proportion since the government began collecting data on this measure more than a century ago.

The numbers they cited were included in an analysis of ACS and other recent census data from the respected Population Reference Bureau in Washington. The PRB analysis noted that marriage rates among young people have been dropping for years, but the decline has accelerated since the recession began. “The data suggest that more young couples are delaying marriage or foregoing matrimony altogether, likely as an adaptive response to the economic downturn and decline in the housing market,” wrote Mark Mather and Diana Lavery. PRB’s analysis, however, added additional qualifications, noting that state-level patterns were murkier; rising unemployment was associated with lower marriage rates in some states but not others. (Sociologist Philip N. Cohen of the University of North Carolina also picked up on the idea that the recession “seems to be hurrying” along a decline in marriage.)

As PRB did, many journalists qualified their conclusions with phrases such as “may have had an impact” or “trend appeared to accelerate.” Their headlines, as is typical in journalism, were more definitive: “Recession Spurs Young in US to Forgo or Delay Marriage,” read one. “Saying No to ‘I Do,’ With the Economy in Mind,” said another.

A few days later, Census Director Robert Groves, who had a long career as a social scientist before taking over the agency in 2009, contributed his thoughts. On his director’s blog, he noted that some news coverage had stated that the declining number of marriages in the U.S. was directly related to the economic downturn. That inference may not be valid, Groves said, and more information may be needed to make the assertion.

Many factors can affect the number of marriages, he said, and pointed out, as did the PRB report, that the share of Americans who are currently married has been dropping for decades. (So did this blog posting on the Cincinnati Enquirer website, written by Janet Harrah of Northern Kentucky University. Its title: “Statistics: A Cautionary Tale.”)

“The impact of an external event, such as an economic recession, can’t easily be teased out of the change over time,” Groves wrote. “It would be useful to such inference to see whether persons considering marriage before and after the recession were making different decisions. It would be useful to know whether those couples most affected by the recession (e.g., losing a job, having a home foreclosed), were more prone to put off marriage relative to those unaffected by the recession. But these estimates were not part of the ACS report.

Statistical estimates are critical to understanding our nation, who we are and how we live. We just need to take care that we understand what they can and cannot tell us about our country.”

Economist Justin Wolfers added his views last week, with an op-ed in The New York Times, a posting on the paper’s Freakonomics blog and an essay on the Brookings Institution website.

He wrote: “You’ve probably heard the latest marriage narrative: With the recession upon us, young lovers can’t afford to marry. As appealing as this story is, it has one problem: It’s not true.” There is no systematic pattern to marriage rates and the economy, he argues: “In fact, the marriage rate appears amazingly insensitive to the business cycle.”

Wolfers employed different statistics than PRB did: He looked at the number of new marriage certificates per 1,000 people for different time periods, including during economic recessions. He argued that the decline in marriage among 25-to-34-year-olds is due more to another trend-Americans are getting married for the first time at older ages than they once did-than to the economy. There is a rise in cohabitation that could well be related to the Great Recession, he said, because couples are trying to save money by living together. Many of them, he added, eventually will marry.

Find more analyses of Census-related data and happenings at All Things Census.

The Reversal of the College Marriage Gap

The Less-Educated Are Now Less Likely to Say “I Do”

October 7, 2010


In a reversal of long-standing marital patterns, college-educated young adults are more likely than young adults lacking a bachelor’s degree to have married by the age of 30.

In 2008, 62% of college-educated 30-year-olds were married or had been married, compared with 60% of 30-year-olds who did not have a college degree.

Throughout the 20th century, college-educated adults in the United States had been less likely than their less-educated counterparts to be married by age 30. In 1990, for example, 75% of all 30-year-olds who did not have a college degree were married or had been married, compared with just 69% of those with a college degree.

As those numbers attest, marriage rates among adults in their 20s have declined sharply since 1990 for both the college-educated and those without a college degree. But the decline has been much steeper for young adults without a college education.

Young adults who do not have a college degree are delaying marriage to such an extent that the median age at first marriage in 2008 was, for the first time ever, the same for the college-educated and those who were not college-educated: 28. As recently as 2000, there had been a two-year gap, with the typical college-educated adult marrying for the first time at 28 and the typical adult lacking a college degree marrying for the first time at 26.

Among the possible explanations for this shift are the declining economic fortunes of young men without a college degree and their increasing tendency to cohabit with a partner rather than marry. From 1990 to 2008, the inflation-adjusted median annual earnings of college-educated men ages 25 to 34 rose by 5% (to $55,000 in 2008 from $52,300 in 1990), while the median annual earnings of those with only a high school diploma declined by 12% (to $32,000 in 2008 from $36,300 in 1990).

During this same time period, the number of cohabitating households (that is, partners of the opposite sex living together without being married) more than doubled. About half of all cohabiters are under age 35, and more than 80% do not have a college degree (Census Bureau, 2004).

There are gender differences associated with the reversal in the college marriage gap. Young women with college degrees are now just as likely as less-educated women to marry, and the timing of their marriages are increasingly similar. This was not the case in 1990. Back then, less-educated women were more likely to marry than were better-educated women, and they tended to do so at a younger age.

Men, like women, are increasingly delaying their first marriages, but the probability of marriage by educational attainment levels has remained unchanged among men. Indeed, it has been the case for many decades that college-educated men are at least as likely to marry at a relatively young age as are men without bachelor’s degrees. In 1960, for example, a college-educated man in his mid-30s was just as likely to have married as a less-educated counterpart.

There have also been shifts since 1990 in later-in-life marriage rates among adults with differing levels of educational attainment. In 2008, 91% of both college-educated adults and adults without a college degree had ever married by ages 55 to 59. In 1990, more adults lacking a bachelor’s degree (96%) than college-educated adults (94%) had ever married by this stage of life. Farther back in time, the marital gap was much bigger. In 1950, 92% of 55- to 59-year-olds without a college education had ever married, compared with just 80% of their counterparts with a college degree.


Married adults tend to be better off, economically, than unmarried adults, and the declining marriage propensities of young adults who are not college-educated have exacerbated their economic challenges. The adjusted annual median household income was about $77,000 for married adults in 2008, compared with $54,000 for unmarried adults. Some of this difference reflects the fact that married adults typically reside in households with more earners. However, even when one compares married and unmarried adults in households with the same number of earners, married adults remain better off. The median adjusted household income of married adults in one-earner households in 2008 was about $63,000, compared with $53,000 for unmarried adults in one-earner households.

The economic well-being associated with marriage is not confined to the college-educated. In 2008, married adults without a college education had a median household income that was 34% higher than the median income of unmarried adults lacking a college degree. This differential has been relatively stable for the past half century.


There is also a correlation between educational attainment and the likelihood of divorce. Newly available Census Bureau data show, for example, that in 2008, 2.9% of all married adults ages 35-39 who lacked a college diploma saw their first marriage end in divorce in the prior year, compared with just 1.6% of a comparably aged group that had a college education. There were similar gaps in divorce rates in 2008 among adults in other age groups. Unlike with marriage data, however, divorce data have not been collected by the Census Bureau in a way that permits comparisons over time in the divorce rates of those with and without a college degree.

Continue reading the full report at

More Women Without Children

by Gretchen Livingston and D’Vera Cohn, Pew Research Center
June 25, 2010

Nearly one-in-five American women ends her childbearing years without having borne a child, compared with one-in-ten in the 1970s. While childlessness has risen for all racial and ethnic groups, and most education levels, it has fallen over the past decade for women with advanced degrees.

The most educated women still are among the most likely never to have had a child. But in a notable exception to the overall rising trend, in 2008, 24% of women ages 40-44 with a master’s, doctoral or professional degree had not had children, a decline from 31% in 1994.

By race and ethnic group, white women are most likely not to have borne a child. But over the past decade, childless rates have risen more rapidly for black, Hispanic and Asian women, so the racial gap has narrowed. By marital status, women who have never married are most likely to be childless, but their rates have declined over the past decade, while the rate of childlessness has risen for the so-called ever-married — those who are married or were at one time.

Among all women ages 40-44, the proportion that has never given birth, 18% in 2008, has grown by 80% since 1976, when it was 10%. There were 1.9 million childless women ages 40-44 in 2008, compared with nearly 580,000 in 1976.

This report is based mainly on data from the June fertility supplement of the Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey. The main comparisons use combined data from 2006 and 2008 (referred to in the report as “2008”) and from 1992 and 1994 (referred to as “1994”). Two years of data are combined for each time point so as to have adequate sample size for detailed analysis. This report uses the standard measure of childlessness at the end of childbearing years, which is the share of women ages 40-44 who have not borne any children.1

Attitudes and International Comparisons

Over the past few decades, public attitudes toward childlessness have become more accepting. Most adults disagree that people without children “lead empty lives,” a share that rose to 59% in 2002 from 39% in 1988, according to the General Social Survey. In addition, children increasingly are seen as less central to a good marriage. In a 2007 Pew Research Center survey, 41% of adults said that children are very important for a successful marriage, a decline from 65% who said so in 1990.

As for the impact on society, attitudes are more mixed. About half the public — 46% in a 2009 Pew Research Center poll — say it makes no difference one way or the other that a growing share of women do not ever have children. Still, a notable share of Americans — 38% in that 2009 survey — say this trend is bad for society, an increase from 29% in a 2007 Pew Research survey.

Compared with other developed nations, childless rates in the United States are on par with some nations and higher than others, according to data compiled by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. Among women born in 1960, 17% in the U.S. were childless at approximately age 40, compared with 22% in the United Kingdom, 19% in Finland and the Netherlands, and 17% in Italy and Ireland. Rates ranged from 12% to 14% for Spain, Norway, Denmark, Belgium and Sweden, and from 7% to 11% for several Eastern European countries and Iceland.

Possible Explanations

Why has childlessness risen in recent decades? Scholars say that social pressure to bear children appears to have diminished for women and that today the decision to have a child is seen as an individual choice.2 Improved job opportunities and contraceptive methods help create alternatives for women who choose not to have children.

At the same time, there has been a general trend toward delayed marriage and childbearing, especially among highly educated women. Given that the chance of a successful pregnancy declines with age, some women who hope to have children never will, despite the rise in fertility treatments that facilitate pregnancy.

About 10% of women ages 15-44 are not able to get pregnant after a year of trying (six months if ages 35 and older), according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Among older women, ages 40-44, there are equal numbers of women who are childless by choice and those who would like children but cannot have them, according to an analysis of data from the National Survey of Family Growth.3 In 2002, among women ages 40-44, 6% were deemed voluntarily childless, 6% involuntarily childless and 2% childless but hoping to have children in the future.

Some women who do not bear their own children raise children as adoptive mothers or stepmothers. According to the 2008 American Community Survey, there are 61.6 million biological children in U.S. households, as well as 1.6 million adopted children and 2.5 million stepchildren. This report analyzes only the population of women who have not borne biological children.

Differences by Education

Childlessness is most common among highly educated women. In 2008, 24% of women ages 40-44 with a bachelor’s degree had not had a child. Rates were similar for women with a master’s degree (25%) and those with a doctorate or a professional degree, such as a medical or legal degree (23%).

Among women with some college but no degree, 18% were childless in 2008, compared with 17% for high school graduates and 15% of women without a high school diploma.
Since the 1990s, rates of childlessness have risen most sharply for the least educated women. The most dramatic change has occurred among women with less than a high school diploma, whose likelihood of bearing no children rose 66% from 1994 to 2008. Rates rose less steeply over the same time period among high school graduates and women with some college but not a degree.

Among women ages 40-44 with a bachelor’s degree, there has been essentially no change in the likelihood of being childless. But rates have declined among women with advanced degrees — by 17% for those with master’s degrees and 32% for those with doctorates or professional degrees. Women with advanced degrees were more likely in 1994 to be childless than were women with bachelor’s degrees — 34% of women with doctorates or professional degrees were childless, as were 30% of those with master’s degrees and 23% of those with bachelor’s degrees. The decline in childlessness for the most educated women from 1994 to 2008 erased that gap.

Among all women ages 40-44, 9% held an advanced degree (a master’s degree or higher) in 2008.

Differences by Race and Ethnicity

One-in-five (20%) white women ages 40-44 was childless in 2008, the highest rate among racial and ethnic groups.

By comparison, 17% of black and Hispanic women were childless in 2008, and 16% of Asian women were childless.

Rates of childlessness rose more for nonwhites than whites from 1994 to 2008.

During those years, the childlessness rates for black women and for Hispanic women grew by more than 30%. The rate for white women increased only 11%.

Marital Status

Among 40-44-year-old women currently married or married at some point in the past, 13% had no children of their own in 2008, a small increase from 11% in 1994.

The childless rate among these women rose for whites, blacks and Hispanics, with the largest increases among black and Hispanic women.

A rising share of births is to women who never married, and this is reflected in a decline in childlessness among this group.

Among women in this group, 56% were childless in 2008, compared with 71% in 1994. The childless rate fell for never-married white and black women.4

Data are incomplete for Hispanic and Asian women.

U.S. Birth Rate Decline Linked to Recession

by Gretchen Livingston and D’Vera Cohn, Pew Research Center
April 6, 2010


Birth rates in the United States began to decline in 2008 after rising to their highest level in two decades, and the decrease appears to be linked to the recession, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of state fertility and economic data.

This analysis is based on data from the 25 states for which final 2008 birth numbers are available. State-level indicators were used because the magnitude and timing of the recent economic decline varies from state to state, thus allowing a more nuanced analysis of links with fertility than is possible at the national level.

In 22 of these 25 states, the birth rate — the share of women of childbearing age who gave birth — declined or leveled off in 2008, compared with the previous year. In 20 of the 25 states, the number of births declined or leveled off from the previous year.

The analysis suggests that the falloff in fertility coincides with deteriorating economic conditions. There is a strong association between the magnitude of fertility change in 2008 across states and key economic indicators including changes in per capita income, housing prices and share of the working-age population that is employed across states.

The nation’s birth rate grew each year from 2003 to 2007, and has declined since then. As will be shown later in this report, the number of births also peaked in 2007 to a record level, dipped nearly 2% in 2008 and continued to decline in 2009, according to National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) data. This analysis focuses on birth rate changes in 2008, the year after the national recession began. Research shows that past recessions are linked to fertility declines but that other factors also play a role.

State Birth Data Show Link with Economy

This analysis capitalizes on state-level differences in the magnitude and change over time of fertility and economic indicators to examine links between the two. It relies mainly on data from the 25 states that have finalized their own 2008 fertility figures.1 These states include slightly more than half the nation’s 2008 population of women of childbearing age (54%) and annual births (54%). Their total births and combined birth rate followed national trends earlier in the decade. In 2008, according to final data supplied by these states, they had a combined total of 2.29 million births, compared with 2.33 million in 2007. Their combined birth rate was 68.8 births per 1,000 women ages 15-44 in 2008, compared with 69.9 in 2007, a decline of 1.6%.

One test of the association between economic and fertility indicators is to examine whether states that experienced larger economic changes also experienced similar changes in fertility. By this measure, there is evidence of a link between fertility and some key economic indicators.

Strong associations were found between the magnitude of state-level birth rate change from 2007 to 2008 and the magnitude the previous year of per capita income change and housing price change. Strong associations also were found between the magnitude of state-level birth rate change from 2007 to 2008, and the previous year’s change in gross domestic product by state, as well as in first claims for unemployment benefits. Analysis also found a strong association between the magnitude of birth rate change from 2007-2008 and a state’s housing foreclosure rate in 2007.2 No correlation was found with change in state-level employment or unemployment rates.

Among the 25 states, Arizona’s birth rate declined more than 4% in 2008 compared with the previous year, the largest change of the 25. Its decline in per capita income in 2007 ranked second among those 25 states and its housing price change ranked sixth. Florida, which had the fourth-largest decline in birth rates among the 25 states in 2008, had a 0.5% decline in per capita income the previous year and a 2% foreclosure rate, both of which ranked worst among this group of states.

At the other end of the scale, North Dakota was one of only five of the 25 states that had a gain in its fertility rate in 2008; its growth in per capita income growth was the largest among these states, and its 2007 foreclosure rate was the second lowest among the 25 states.

Read the full report at

The Return of the Multi-Generational Family Household

March 18, 2010

Summary of Findings

This report documents major changes in family household living arrangements that have unfolded over the past three decades and accelerated during the Great Recession.

Its principal focus is on the revival since 1980 of the multi-generational family household.

It also chronicles a range of recent trends in the living arrangements of older adults, and it explores the correlation between living alone at an older age and various life experiences, including health, happiness and depression.

The report is based on the Pew Research Center’s analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data as well as our own public opinion surveys. For details on our methodology, see “About the Data” in the full report. Key findings:

Multi-Generational Family Households

  • In 2008, an estimated 49 million Americans, or 16% of the total U.S. population, lived in a family household that contained at least two adult generations or a grandparent and at least one other generation. In 1980, this figure was just 28 million, or 12% of the population.
  • This 33% increase since 1980 in the share of all Americans living in such households represents a sharp trend reversal. From 1940 to 1980, the share of Americans living in such households had declined by more than half (from 25% in 1940 to 12% in 1980).
  • The growth since 1980 in these multi-generational households is partly the result of demographic and cultural shifts, including the rising share of immigrants in the population and the rising median age of first marriage of all adults.
  • But at a time of high unemployment and a rising foreclosures, the number of households in which multiple generations of the same family double up under the same roof has spiked significantly. Our report finds that from 2007 to 2008, the number of Americans living in a multi-generational family household grew by 2.6 million.
  • This trend has affected adults of all ages, especially the elderly and the young. For example, about one in five adults ages 25 to 34 now live in a multi-generational household. So do one-in-five adults ages 65 and older.

Living Arrangements of Older Adults

  • After rising steeply for nearly a century, the share of adults ages 65 and older who live alone flattened out around 1990 and has since declined a bit. It currently stands at 27% — up from 6% in 1900.
  • Older adults who live alone are less healthy and they more often feel sad or depressed than their counterparts who live with a spouse or with others. These correlations stand up even after controlling for demographic factors such as gender, race, age, income and education.

Read the full report at


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