A Pew Research report released this week shows that, for the first time, women are now the sole or primary breadwinners in 40 percent of households with children under 18. Of those mothers who are the primary earners in their family, 37 percent are married and make more than their husbands. Sixty-three percent are single mothers.
Pew said the growth in both groups is related to the increase of working women overall, now accounting for 47 percent of the labor force. The research center found that 74 percent of adults polled said this increase in women as the primary breadwinner is making it more difficult for families to raise children.
Pundits on the Fox Business program agreed Wednesday, when host Lou Dobbs called the study's findings "concerning and troubling statistics." He said Americans are "watching society dissolve around us." Conservative pundit Erick Erickson added that, in his view, American society has lost the ability to have complementary relationships, which "is tearing us apart."
"I'm so used to liberals telling conservatives that they're anti-science," Erickson said. "But liberals who defend this and say it is not a bad thing are very anti-science. When you look at biology, when you look at the natural world, the roles of a male and a female in society and in other animals, the male typically is the dominant role. The female, it's not antithesis, or it's not competing, it's a complementary role."
Erickson defended his comments on his blog, saying he understands that in many cases it is financially impossible for mothers to stay home with their children. But he argued that it is best for children to be nurtured by mothers at home, while the father earns enough to support the family:
In modern society we are not supposed to say such things about child rearing and families. In modern society we are not supposed to point out that children in a two-parent heterosexual nuclear household have a better chance at long term success in life than others. In modern society, we are supposed to applaud feminists who teach women they can have it all — that there is no gender identifying role and women can fulfill the role of husbands and fathers just as men do.
This does not mean the two-parent, heterosexual nuclear household will always work out for the best. But it does mean children in that environment will more often than not be more successful than children of single parents or gay parents.
Slate's Amanda Marcotte said Fox's alarm over the increase in women's earning power is not supported by data. She points out that the divorce rate is going down and abortion rates are about what they were before Roe v. Wade, but these things shouldn't be the issue:
It's true that these new breadwinner stats are not all good news, but the real problem is that men earning less means less money overall for the average American home. What's really hurting Americans isn't female equality, but growing income inequality between the rich and everyone else. Pitting men against women is simply a distraction from the real economic issues facing us all.
What do you think? Is Fox right that women breadwinners highlight a breakdown in society? Take the poll and comment below.
This poll is now closed, but the debate continues in the comments section.
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