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Americans approve of working mothers

Monday, April 23, 2012  
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Americans approve of mothers -- including those with young children -- working outside the home, even if their husbands can support their families, according to an April 2012 CNN/ORC poll of more than 1,000 adults.

In a significant change from attitudes on the topic, nine in 10 Americans approve of married women with young children working outside the home, even if their husbands can support the family.

While some Americans are still concerned about the impact working mothers might have on children, the level of concern has dropped significantly since the 1980s and 1990s. In 1986, and again in 1995, 57 percent of those surveyed thought in general it was a "bad thing” for children to have working mothers; approximately one-quarter thought it was a "good thing.” Today, one-third of those surveyed expressed concerned about the effects on children when women work outside of home, while a 52-percent majority hold a positive view of the impact working mothers have on their children.

The larger question of whether a married woman should work if her husband is able to support her – once an extremely controversial topic – appears to have settled by a nearly unanimous consensus. In 1938, Gallup found that 78 percent of Americans opposed a wife working outside the home. In 1970, 36 percent still thought it was a bad idea. Even as late as 1997, 17 percent disagreed with the idea of a wife working outside the home. This year, only 2 percent of those surveyed disapproved of a married woman working if her husband is capable of supporting her.

Roughly a third of women said they would prefer to stay at home and take care of their house and family rather than work outside the home. Sixty percent of women said they would prefer to have a job outside the home. (Five percent prefer both.)

When asked if men or women have it better in the United States currently, both genders agreed men have it better. Sixty-three percent of women said men have it better, while 49 percent of men agreed.

Full survey results


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