The Impact of Breadwinner Moms on the Future of HR

Breadwinner moms, Future of HR,

A recent Pew Research study on what they defined at “breadwinner moms” was recently published. It is very interesting demographic information that shows how the make-up of society has changed since 1960. The prediction is that this trend will continue. So how many of you have put any thought on what the impact of breadwinner moms will be on the future of HR?

The study and future of hr

The study defined “breadwinner moms” as women who are the sole or primary source of income for their families. They found that today 40% of households with children under the age of 18 years are headed by a breadwinner mom. They also found that there are two groups that make up these breadwinner moms. First 37% of these women are women who make more than their husbands. The second group, 63% are single mothers who are the sole support.

Further they found that these two groups have very different demographics.

In Group 1, where the women make more than their husbands:

  • The median family income is $80,000 per year which beats the $57,100 for all families with children;
  • They are older;
  • They are college educated;
  • They are predominately white.

In Group 2, where the women are the sole breadwinners, they are:

  • Making a median wage of $23,000;
  • Are less likely to be college educated;
  • Are more likely to be black or Hispanic.

Other key factors:

  • Women now make up 47% of the labor force;
  • 65% of mothers are now employed outside the home, up from 37% in 1968;
  • 32% say that working fulltime is their ideal situation and only 20% would prefer not to work.

The public reaction to this is:

  • 74% of adults think this has made it harder to raise kids;
  • Approximately 50% says it makes it harder for marriages to succeed;
  • 66% say it has made their lives more comfortable;
  • 64% think the number of single moms is a big problem, but that is falling;
  • Older, white, Republicans think this is a bigger problem than younger, non-white Democrats;
  • Married mothers are better educated than their husbands and household income is higher than if the husband is better educated;
  • Single mother are more likely to have never been married, be non-white, and be more poorly educated.

There are many more interesting demographic findings in the study. I will leave it to you to read this study at Breadwinner Moms AND you do need to read this study. I want to explore some of the implications of this study.


Let’s explore some of the impact this continuing trend will put on the future of hr and our companies over the next five years.

  • Companies will need to continue to move toward more flexible work schedules, including schedules that include remote work on a more frequent basis.
  • Decisions on promotions, demotions, transfers, and terminations will have to be based on performance and not “who is the breadwinner” for the family. (Yes decisions are still being made on that basis.)
  • To attract and retain breadwinner mom candidates benefit packages may need to be adjusted to include more family friendly pieces.
  • Job training and educational training will need to increase to make more effective use of the single mother group who are more likely to be more poorly educated. Offering training as potential compensation in order to improve employability may be appealing.

These are four major ones that come to mind for me, what comes to mind for you. Regardless of what it is this is something companies need to be preparing for today.

The Impact of Breadwinner Moms on the Future of HR

What are you putting in motion to meet this need? Let us know in the comments.


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Mike Haberman

Michael (Mike) D. Haberman, SPHR is a consultant, speaker, writer of HR Observations, and co-founder of Omega HR Solutions, Inc. After over 30 years in HR he got tired of the past and focuses here on the Future of HR. Connect with Mike.

Reader Interactions


  1. Geo Mihalache says

    I really like it that this article comes from a man writer! Great post, Mike.

    Obviously these women are great assets to a company since they succeed at both raising their children and being valuable professionals. Companies need to do all they can to keep them.

    I work in an IT company where remote working and flexible schedules are easy to fix due to laptops, Blackberries, VPN connections and so on. I was one of the happy employees who benefited of all these (and I still do, even if I am on maternity leave now). Unfortunately the big problem is for those companies that need their employees on the premises. I think that these women need to be encouraged to delegate and find shadows more and develop their team members towards supporting the common goals in order for them to be able to have flexible schedules. This is tough.

  2. Mark Sadovnick says

    Important article. I remember recommending years ago to top CPA firms, for eg., that it is not smart business to consider someone a ‘loser’ (in terms of there is no future in the firm) who was not deemed to be partner material. Women especially who also wanted families, but wanted a balance of being Mom/Wife and still use their quality skills and experience to bring value to the firm.
    The initial suggestion to allow a new Mom to work 3 days a week, yet still provide the same service to selected key clients, was thought almost ridiculous. Even though those clients would be getting the same time as when she worked full time, but then on more clients.
    Talent is the most valuable asset. Engaging great women and men (also looking for balance, some stay at home Dads) people, valuing their abilities and contributions, and own goals, that’s smart leadership. That’s how you build championship teams and companies.

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