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June 21 2016

What Jennifer Garner’s Pregnancy Confirms about Working Moms

Patrice L. Onwuka

There are rumors swirling in the entertainment industry that actress Jennifer Garner is pregnant. A causal perusal of the tabloid papers at the grocery store have photos confirming a baby bump.

If Garner, 44, is pregnant with a fourth child by her husband and actor Ben Affleck, one of the decisions the family will have to make is whether she takes time out from her career to spend time with the child. Many Hollywood actresses are working moms and some like Zooey Deschanel are known to bring their children to the set, as she did when making “New Girl.”

The choice to work after having kids is a difficult one, but one that millions of women face. However, for low-income moms, it’s not really a choice but a necessity.

According to Bureau of Labor Statistics data analyzed by American Enterprise Institute’s scholar Aparna Mathur, the participation rate of moms in the labor force has grown from 39 percent in 1975 to 64 percent in 2015. Single moms in the workforce outpace married mothers by a rate of 75 percent compared to 68 percent. And not too surprisingly, the older your children, the more likely you are as a mother to be working.

Income also plays a role in whether moms are in the labor force. We might expect those with lower incomes to be more likely to work than those with higher incomes, but the data show otherwise:

According to Census data, within the pool of married mothers, about 65% of mothers in families with less than $40,000 in family income are not in the labor force. For families with over $100,000 in family income, approximately 20% of married mothers are not in the labor force. So why are more low-income mothers not in the labor force? It appears that reasons for non-participation may be different for higher income mothers as opposed to lower income mothers. This shows up in Pew survey data. Single, low-income, mothers were more likely to be staying at home for lack of finding a job, or illness or a disability. Married mothers with working husbands were more likely to choose to stay at home to care for the kids. These choices are also reflected in the data on part-time and full-time work.

Most women want to work fulltime (76 percent). It just may not be financially feasible. For lower income mothers, there can be several drawbacks to fulltime work: one is merely finding a job in this economy and another is the high cost of daycare. A third for many is that the income they would derive from work would end their government benefits.

All of these drawbacks are directly traceable government policies. ObamaCare and over-regulation, for example, have decreased the ability to hire of many companies.

The cost of day care is made unaffordable by extensive regulations on providers, many of which don't increase the safety for the kids.  

On the day care front, IWF proposes increasing tax credits for kids and eliminating the regulations that make child care needlessly expensive. Most of the decisions would be left in the hands of parents.

By contrast, Hillary Clinton's proposals on day care would put a ten percent cap on the portion of income that goes to day care and give subsidies for the rest--a bookkeeping night mare. .

Jennifer Garner is in the enviable position of having the choice to stay at home with baby #4 (if the rumors are true). However, we need to figure out ways to expand that choice to women of all means. Tax credits as Mathur suggests can help get us there, but so can a strong economy that increases wages for all workers and offers new opportunities. While the unemployment rate is dropping, a significant reason is because workers (such as women) are dropping out of the workforce.

Independent Women's Forum is an educational 501(c)(3) dedicated to developing and advancing policies that aren’t just well intended, but actually enhance people’s freedom, choices, and opportunities. IWF is the sister organization of the Independent Women’s Voice.​
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