The Geography of Stay-at-Home Moms

Professionals in the housing industry know that demography and housing are closely related. The total number of households and their respective forms are fundamental drivers of housing demand.

With this in mind, we thought it would be interesting to take a quick look at the geographic distribution of stay-at-home moms. Few issues in American life seem to inspire as much passionate debate as work-life balance and the so-called mommy wars. But the raw data may be useful for stakeholders in the housing industry, as different types of households often have different needs for housing.

The 2010 American Community Survey allows us to map and estimate household types. The 2010 data indicate that of the approximately 76 million family households in the nation, 34 million contained children under the 18 years of age. Most of those households – almost 23 million – took the form of married couples. Of that 23 million, almost 22 million had the husband in the labor force (that is, employed or looking for work).  Of those 22 million, 14.3 million also indicated that the wife was in the labor force. The remaining 6.1 million represented families in which the wife was not in the labor force, and therefore matched the traditional definition of stay-at-moms.

Using these numbers, and the state-by-state breakdowns, the share of married households with kids that involve stay-at-home moms (husband in labor force, wife not in the labor force) stands at 26.5% for the nation as a whole. The following map presents the state-level stay-at-home mom rates. What is immediately noticeable about the map is the degree of regional clustering (update – because it is difficult to see, the Washington, D.C. rate is 23.6%).

There are multiple reasonable reasons why this particular distribution occurs, including education levels, average children per household, and immigrant households. To provide a robust explanation would require a detailed statistical study examining these factors simultaneously. Nonetheless, the clustering is an interesting pattern that emerges from the ACS data.

There have been changes in the patterns of stay-at-home moms over the last few years, some related to the economic crisis. For example, from 2005 to 2010, the number of stay at home households actually fell from 6.9 million to 6.1 million, a decline of more than 12%.  During this period, the number of households with children under 18 also fell, from 35 million to 34 million, a decline of a little less than 3%. The stay-at-home rate thus fell from 31% to 30% over the 5 year period, perhaps suggesting that tougher economic conditions increased the pressure for some mothers to find work.

On the other side of the ledger, the ACS data also lets us count the smaller but still significant number of stay-at-home dads. According to the 2010 ACS, there were about 869,000 married households with children under 18 for which the wife was in the labor force but the husband was not. This suggests a stay-at-home dad rate of about 3.8%. Rhode Island, West Virginia, Kentucky and Nevada had the highest rates of stay-at-home dads. The number of stay-at-home dads also fell from 2005 to 2010, declining from 890,000 in 2005 to 869,000 in 2010.

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12 thoughts on “The Geography of Stay-at-Home Moms

  1. Very interesting article, thank you for sharing. I would also invite you to take a look at how many moms, stay at home but also work out of the home while balancing a dual workload…mom and working professional. I feel that there has been a dramatic shift in how the home functions. Recently trends have looked at multigenerational homes, but I also feel that there has been a real shift for a multi-functional home. Having a home that functions in the traditional sense of the word, but also has opportunities and the ability to allow working from home to be a real function within it and not just an alcove at the top of the stairwell or a converted bedroom.

    1. Thanks for the comment Kim. I agree, and I would like to take a look at housing data in the future that lets us explore work-at-home, telecommuting, and work-life balance issues as it relates to housing demand and design.

    2. I’m so glad you commented this!! 🙂 I’m a stay at home, work from home SINGLE mom myself and would be eager to hear the statistics on how many of us are taking it all on!

  2. I would think that some of the geographical distribution comes from military households; but perhaps I’m wrong there. Many military wives are stay at home, both by choice and because it’s difficult to retain/maintain a career.

    1. This is a great point. I’ve added examining the housing of military families to our future research list. I wish I could break out the data as you suggest, but it would take more time than I have this week.

  3. The thing is, how many people feel the need to stay at home once their kids are in school, as opposed to beforehand? I think that is probably the big source of variation in your data – you are looking at “under 18” but here it’s a proxy for “under 5”. So yes it’s down to number of kids – those with 3 under 18 are more likely to have an under 5 in the family. It’s too bad there isn’t data on what % of pre-schoolers have a SAHM.

  4. Robeert

    Good morning, Do you have an update on this article or can you point me to a table that reveals the states by rank and the % of stay at home moms? Thanks. Bill

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