A new brief from Ancestry.com after mining and massaging U.S. Census data. Includes graphic.
One hundred and fifty years of federal census data and one thing is clear: the growing trend of working mothers in the United States is as old as Lincoln’s presidency. Ancestry.com, the world’s largest online family history resource, recently examined 150 years of U.S. Federal Census records to understand the role of mothers in the workforce and found the national average has grown 800% over the past century and a half – from 7.5% working mothers in 1860 to 67% today.
According to the analysis, every decade since 1860 shows a different rate of growth, influenced by what was happening in the nation at the time. The woman’s suffrage movement, regional trends and wartime all contributed to growth rates after the turn of the century. With so many fathers going off to war in the first half of 1940, the nation called upon women to join the workforce like never before. This ushered in the highest growth rates for working women in the country since 1860, with double-digit growth continuing for the next four decades (1950-1990). The highest growth over the entire 150-year timeframe occurred in 1980 (12.6%), boosting the percentage of working mothers to 52%.
Most interesting in the Ancestry.com analysis were the 10 states that showed the most working mothers, compared to the 10 states with the fewest. “In analyzing the numbers, it was apparent that states seemed to group together on rate of growth,” Godfrey said. “For nearly 80 years the highest percentage of working mothers was in the South and the lowest percentage was in the Midwest. In the most recent four decades the Southern states traded places with the Midwest states which now make up the majority of the top 10 states.”