Tales from the Trail

No privilege for most stay-at-home moms -poll

April 20, 2012

Mothers relax on the grass with their babies at Central Park during a warm day in New York, March 22, 2012. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

The recent flap over women voters — especially stay-at-home mothers — has sent both Republican and Democratic pundits scrambling and with good reason: many stay-at-home moms aren’t affiliated with either party and are a ripe target for swing votes, a new poll shows.

The survey from Gallup Inc also finds that moms who don’t work aren’t exactly a pampered lot, despite Ann Romney – the wife of a multi-millionaire businessman – being portrayed as their standard bearer. It found most moms who stay home are more economically disadvantaged than their working peers.

Women with more education and those with higher family incomes are far more likely to work after having children than lower-income women and those who have less schooling, the polling firm found.

“It does appear that stay-at-home mothers are more economically disadvantaged than working mothers, rather than more advantaged. And this may be directly related to education,” Gallup said in its poll released this week.

The dust-up over whether women who don’t work and instead stay home with their children are privileged arose last week when Democratic pundit Hilary Rosen made comments that seemed to criticize Ann Romney, whose husband Mitt is one of the wealthiest people to ever seek the U.S. presidency and who has never been employed outside her home.

According to Gallup, which interviewed more than 45,000 U.S. adult women over three months earlier this year, most mothers with children under age 18 work outside the home — 63 percent. Thirty-seven percent stay home.

The survey found 84 percent of moms with young kids who have  postgraduate-level education also have a job along with 75 percent of college graduates and 66 percent of those with just some college coursework. That compares with 48 percent of those who have at most a high school education.

When it comes to wealth, between 67 percent and 77 percent of mothers whose household income ranges from $24,999 to more than $90,000 have a job compared with 45 percent of women whose families make less than $24,000.

Pundits, politicians and others have talked a lot about women’s “choice” in whether to stay home or join the workforce, but the findings suggest there are other factors at play. Besides education, ability to find and afford quality daycare and other lifestyle preferences could play a role, Gallup said.

“Unless a mother can obtain a good job, likely depending on whether she has advanced education, there may be little or no financial benefit to her working,” it said.

It’s not clear what the political fallout will be over the so-called “mommy wars.” The poll shows both parties have an opening to win over women, especially stay-at-home moms.

According to the poll, 45 percent of mothers who stay at home are independent compared with 38 percent of all women.

Gallup, a nonpartisan polling firm, interviewed women between January and March as part of its Daily Tracking poll. It has a sampling error of plus-or-minus 1 percent.

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Mr. obama knows what he is doing

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