Black women as ‘breadwinner moms’

by The Grio

The GrioFrom The Grio — The Pew Research study’s finding that a record 40 percent of all households with children include “breadwinner moms” – who are either the sole or primary source of income for the family — hit the nation like of a ton of bricks, crashing down on theLeave It to Beaver and Father Knows Best image of the American nuclear family.

For better or worse, African-Americans appear to be at the forefront of most of the social shifts that are fueling the rise of breadwinner moms.  These trends include single motherhood, rates of divorce, women’s educational and career ascendancy and men’s increasing unemployment and underemployment.

According to the Pew study, 63 percent of the breadwinner moms are single mothers; additionally, African-American mothers are disproportionately single. Black mothers make up 12.4 percent of all mothers, but comprise 27.5 percent of all single mothers, 40.1 percent of never-married mothers and 17.1 percent of divorced, separated or widowed mothers.

Black women: More likely to out-earn than be out-earned

Among the married mothers, the study showed that married black mothers are more likely to be primary breadwinner moms than to be mothers whose husbands have the higher income. Of the married women who out-earn their husbands, ten percent are black. Comparatively, only 6 percent of the couples in which the husband is the primary breadwinner include married black women.

This is not surprising given the fact that, according to National Center for Education Statistics, the largest gender difference in college enrollments was among black students as black females accounted for 64 percent of the total black undergraduate enrollment. Further, as of May 2013, 11.2 percent of black women over the age of 20 were unemployed compared to 13.5 percent of black men in that same age demographic, a percentage point difference that was almost four times that of whites.

Is the end of marriage coming?

So what do these statistics with respect to the rising economic power of women and dwindling economic power of men mean for society?

Stanford Law School Professor Ralph Richard Banks has asserted that these trends may signal the end of marriage as the bedrock social institution in the U.S. African-Americans, who have experienced the greatest gender status shifts, are the canary in the coal mine heralding, not just the reevaluation and re-configuration of marriage, but the slow withering away of the once-universal institution.

While many media outlets have portrayed these shifts in the meaning and stability of marriage in a negative way, it might be the case that African-Americans’ familiarity with fiscal crisis and blended families makes this group better equipped to create enduring marriages despite these social evolutions.

African-American women cope well with “mancession” 

Lisa Brateman, a psychotherapist and relationship specialist in New York City, told theGrio that among her clients of all races, African-American wives seemed the most resilient in dealing with the “mancession” and new era of the breadwinner mom.

“In general, African-American women were less likely to experience paralyzing devastation after their spouses experienced job loss,” she said. “They just swung into action because they just seemed accustomed to doing everything and anything to make life work.  In some ways, they seemed to not have the expectation that a man would financially support them all the time, so although they were just as vulnerable and saddened as other wives, they were also more resilient.”


(Continue Reading @ The Grio…)

  • Posh Miss

    I am not buying into this hype. This may be what is happening today, but I believe the family will be restored and we will see a decrease in divorce. Marriages will last and not continue to end in less than three years.

    Generations swing from one extreme to the next and it will swing back towards marriage. People are marrying, especially this year in the year of abundant love. I wrote a blog about this year in relationship to love and personally I am not buying into this hype.

    Two are better than one and I am praying that people will remember that and look to start partnering again and building community.

  • Mademoiselle

    I don’t usually come down on single mothers, but if “63 percent of the breadwinner moms are single mothers,” doesn’t that mean they compared a bunch of women’s income to $0? How does this statistic make sense to even publish. Of course single mothers are breadwinners — the only other people in the house are the kids. I digress.

    For the remainder of the statistics, I think this is another reason for men to start shoring up their insecurities and antiquated needs to be the financial head of their households. Whether it’s because of societal bias or plain old better ability or ease in acquiring income, women are proving to be better suited to accomplish this particular household need. So it would behoove any couple expecting to live their golden years together to reprioritize the notion of women marrying for money and who bears the burden of “providing” for the family. I sense a paradigm shift in gender roles on the horizon.

    Side note, I wonder if they surveyed these families to find out if the women were the breadwinners before marriage and before kids, or if they became breadwinners. That would reveal even more about the dynamics of today’s families.

  • Tiger The-Lion

    “Of the married women who out-earn their husbands, ten percent are black.”

    this says that traditional model is still the standard. i don’t see the end of marriage but that a lot more women are choosing to raise families by themselves and in those household, the woman have no choice but to be the only breadwinner.

  • Stef

    Once again here we go thinking the world is just westernized black and white people. The institution of marriage is dying western countries . Not among the Asians, Indians , South Americans and even Africans or atleast not at the rate that it is happening in Europe and North America.

    As it relates to black Americans the positive is black women are better educated and making more money a huge plus . But that’s about it,

  • Perspective

    This whole PEW report – 40% of “ALL WOMEN” being the bread winners was a lie from the outset.

    1) In every category black women brought the number of those in poverty UP, and make up 40% of single mothers despite only being 7% of the populatin. That doesn’t speak too highly of black men by the way.

    2) And this should be #1 – How in the hell are you going to actually compare one person against a person who’s not even there. In other words, if a woman is making $16,000 a year as a single mom – GUESS WHAT?! She’s a bread winner. – Like that’s something to celebrate…

    That’s like saying that the boys out performed the girls – AT AN ALL BOY SCHOOL – HUH?! WTF?

    3) Also being “better educated” does not necessarily equate to making more money. Mind you, black women are the lowest percentage of those in the STEM majors – Science, Math, Engineering, and Technology. These would be some of the very fields you would need in order to build up, repair, and maintain any black community.

    Does anyone know how to run this wire or install this plumbing? – Didn’t think so.

    And looking at the report right now

    “Never married mothers have a distinctive profile. Compared with single mothers who are divorced, widowed or separated, never married mothers are significantly younger, disproportionally non-white, and have lower education and income. Close to half of never married mothers in 2011 (46%) are ages 30 and younger, six-in-ten are either black (40%) or Hispanic (24%), and nearly half (49%) have a high school education or less. Their median family income was $17, 400 in 2011, the lowest among all families with children.”

    How do you overlook that?

    4 out of 10 of these single mothers (of all races) are black
    50% have a HS education or less and make $17k

    Come on ya’ll – you ain’t even being honest. Stroking yourselves into a narcissistic state isn’t going to solve the problem either.

    When you get done all the boasting and bragging about things that aren’t even going on, come talk to some brothas who know what’s going on when you’re finished.

  • Perspective

    “My body, my choice”

    Oh women have SAY and choice – many just reserve the right not to use it because given the situation, black men NOT being in the proper financial position isn’t going to STOP THEM from having the baby that they want to have – REGARDLESS of if there are enough resources on the ground to take care of the children or not.

    Some women really need to stop hiding behind this – “I had no choice” BS!

    Most knew he was a Pookie when they laid down with him. This has been going on for years, and that sob story is getting old. There are only a handful of women who meet Mr. Right and he just busted a 180. They can at least take the dude to court, but you got women getting pregnant by men who had nothing to begin with and then they’re complaining – trying to squeeze blood out of a turnip!

    They can call themselves STRONG AND RESILIENT all they want – that doesn’t change the fact that their baby daddy is no one they would want to bring out the shadows when they DO EVENTUALLY pull it together, as he is the representation of “WHAT THEY WERE ON” when they got pregnant.

    …which wasn’t much.

  • Perspective

    What’s also so dumb about this – is if women are SURPASSING THE MEN right now, then I guess all the complaints about women being OPPRESSED can pretty much stop right?

    Since when does the oppressed group surpass their oppressors, and in the case of black women in relation to black men – whose been oppressing black women… the group of men who can’t even hire themselves?

    Please, tell me; what jobs or salary has a black man denied you lately?

  • Wanda

    But is it correct to choose to raise a child on your own? Is that fair to the child, or at times to multiple children in the household?

  • BeReal


    Women expect men to be the head of the household as well. I agree with you, these statistics can swing so many ways. We know historically black men have had tenuous links to long term employment. Could it be that if women are the primary breadwinner its because their husbands are out of work? That causes a lot of stress on marriages which will lead to divorce. Could that explain the high rates of divorce in black marriages?

    Its interesting to see however that in spite of their being far more black women in college, the rate of employment differs by a few percentage points.

  • Southpaw

    Hey, Sarge. I’m reporting in. I’ll be backing you up from now on.

  • talaktochoba

    do away with traditional marriage and i guarantee you the man will have accomplished all he set out to do 500 years ago–totally destroy all Afrocentric, if not African itself, culture;

    slavery couldn’t do it, nor the Black Codes or Klan or even law-and-order or tea-party republicans, not even the justice system or or drugs or guns or even homosexuality;

    it may come down to our taking back over the republican party of Lincoln, Douglass, Wells and Dr. King, but we will have to make choice eventually–either uphold traditional family values WE invented thousands of years ago, or let our culture dissipate completely into a gelatinous miasma that flows whichever way the latest PC trend blows;

  • Perspective

    The problem with “just instituting traditional roles” are that they are predicated on the man being the foundation and having more resources/finances to offer the woman, which is why any woman would “submit” in the first place.

    That is the ONLY way that a man can create and pass on a legacy, especially if you want to talk about wealth creation in the black community.

    Some of these women KILL ME with their ideas of black men playing traditional roles but from a financially subordinate position.

    How does that work, you pay for and build the pedestal and then he HELPs you up onto it?

    That’s dumb. I just wish black women would realize that as long as their men are in the jacked up position they are in, and black women think it’s so great that they’re surpassing black men even though in reality they’re really not but it’s the (idea) – that there are a whole bunch of things that its IMPOSSIBLE for them to receive as black women. You know those things that they have to sit there and watch other races of women receive.

    Example, black men can’t PROMOTE a black beauty standard in the media that THEY don’t own or control themselves – like a telemundo or univision. Also that wouldn’t even matter or be a concern if black men weren’t passing anything on – there’s nothing that necessitates keeping it black at that point. What are black men trying to preserve? You can’t preserve anything from a subordinate position to your women. I guess we’re supposed to be using her resources that she gets ultimately from white men? THAT’S DUMB!

    I think the truth is that black women BELIEVE, when looking at it objectively, that compared to other patriarchies that if the black men were ever in the financially dominant position collectively, that we would just COMPLETELY F THEM OVER.


    They really don’t trust us; the way I look at it, I’m like, well you’re already getting raped and pillaged if you look at their complaints. You mean to tell me that if black men actually, collectively, had the resources to control the economic landscape of the BC that there would only be EVEN MORE RAPE AND PILLAGE?

    Oh we’ll oppressing black women like white men have oppressed white women?

    Hmmm, that’s funny because last time I checked, despite the white woman being oppressed by white men, black men were getting slammed for not providing the same pedestal that the white man (who rapes and pillages his woman) has provided for the white woman who is just so beneath his heel.

    Damn, those white women walking down the red carpet, in the subordinate position, in their expensive dresses and make up (paid for by those evil white patriarchal men) – damn sure looked oppressed at the awards shows.

  • LadiesNight

    Last time I checked,in order to take up STEM you have to be smart in math and science. If I’m not good in math or science,why would I take up engineering or STEM? That’s like someone who can’t sing saying they want to be a singer. Use your head for more than a weave rack.

  • Stef

    Excellent job of putting these numbers into proper perspective

  • Courtney**

    ::eyeroll:: Oh okay. So Perspective is Sergeant Willie Pete. This makes a lot more sense now.

  • angie

    I hope you are right. Black men need to take on their parenting responsibilities, and both black men and women need to start PLANNING for parenthood to together instead of stumbling into it separately.

  • addassamari

    Thanks for saving me work of putting all the numbers into perspective. Well done.

  • Southpaw

    What we need in this country is more African immigrants to “regenerate” the black blood. They’ll bring over a more business mindset and traditional patriarchal values. Don’t be fooled by what a lot of these black feminist are saying Africans are naturally patriarchal.

  • E.M.S.

    I believe that’s relative and subjective. For many mothers single parenthood was not a choice they made, it was the result of unfortunate events.

    But on the other hand, I don’t think you can immediately say it’s the wrong choice even if a mother chooses divorce because each family’s situation is unique. If the father is abusive, a drug addict, or into anything else dangerous, would she be wrong to remove her child/children from that?

  • L

    Am I the only one that just hates these polls and surveys? It doesn’t matter if the information is “positive” or “negative”, I feel these polls are not helping anything. and personally I know so many exceptions to these numbers stated it’s crazy.
    Single mothers at a $17,400 median income???? HA! Not in this community.

  • Pingback: Black women as 'breadwinner moms' | Clutch Maga...

  • tee

    claps hands. reading IS fundamental, isnt’ it?!

Latest Stories

Hashtivism: See How Twitter Took Over #myNYPD to Highlight Police Brutality


V.O.T.D: “Thugs, The Musical!”


Open Thread: Did You Watch “The Boondocks” Season Premiere?


Paul Ryan to Meet With CBC to Clear Up Racially Insensitive Comments

More in Life, money and finance
50 Things That Are A Total Waste Of Energy To Feel Guilty About

The Untold Story of Jealousy