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Breadwinner moms: Mom earns more in 40 percent of US households (+video)

Breadwinner moms bring home the bacon in 4 out of 10 US households, up from just 11 percent in 1960, according to a new study from the Pew Research Center.

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How does the general public feel about that?

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While roughly 79 percent of Americans reject the notion that women should return to their traditional roles, only 21 percent of those polled said the trend of more mothers of young children working outside the home is a good thing for society, according to the Pew survey.

Roughly 3 in 4 adults said the increasing number of women working for pay has made it harder for parents to raise children.

Andrew Cherlin, a professor of sociology and public policy at Johns Hopkins University, said that to his surprise public attitudes toward working mothers have changed very little over the years. He predicts the growing numbers will lead to a growing constituency among women in favor of family-friendly work policies such as paid family leave, as well as safety net policies such as food stamps or child care support for single mothers.

"Many of our workplaces and schools still follow a male-breadwinner model, assuming that the wives are at home to take care of child care needs," he said. "Until we realize that the breadwinner-homemaker marriage will never again be the norm, we won't provide working parents with the support they need."

Other findings:

—There is a gender gap on attitudes. About 45 percent of women say children are better off if their mother is at home, and 38 percent say children are just as well off if the mother works. Among men, 57 percent say children are better off if their mother is at home, while 29 percent say they are just as well off if she works.

—The share of married couples in which the wife is more educated than the husband is rising, from 7 percent in 1960 to 23 percent in 2011. Still, the vast majority of couples include spouses with similar educational backgrounds, at 61 percent.

—The number of working wives who make more than their husbands has been increasing more rapidly in recent years. Among recently married couples, including those without children, the share of "breadwinner wives" is roughly 30 percent, compared to 24 percent of all married couples.

The Pew study is based on an analysis of census data as of 2011, the latest available, as well as interviews with 1,003 adults by cellphone or landline from April 25 to 28. The Pew poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

 

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Danny Bent poses at the starting line of the Boston Marathon in Hopkinton, Mass.

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