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Economy
Record-High 56% of U.S. Women Prefer Working to Homemaking
Economy

Record-High 56% of U.S. Women Prefer Working to Homemaking

Record-High 56% of U.S. Women Prefer Working to Homemaking

Story Highlights

  • 56% of women prefer to work rather than to be homemaker
  • 75% of men would rather work outside the home
  • 50% of women with children under age 18 prefer to stay home; 45%, to work

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Given the choice between working or staying home to take care of the house and family, a record-high 66% of U.S. adults would prefer to work. While women's preference to work outside the home (56%) continues to lag behind men's (75%), it is at its highest point in roughly three decades.

Line graph. Americans’ preference to work outside the home vs. be a homemaker, by gender, since 1992.

The latest reading, from an Aug. 1-14 poll, marks the 10th time Gallup has asked Americans for their preferences on this measure since 2001. The question was periodically included in other organizations' polling between 1974 and 1999, although some of those readings were only among women. From 1992 until now, the question has been asked more regularly, with a consistent majority of Americans preferring to work outside the home -- ranging between 54% and the current 66% reading.

The most notable demographic difference on this question continues to be between men and women. Men's preference for working outside of the home has varied by 10 percentage points since 1992, from 68% to 78%. Women's views have shown slightly more variation than men's over the same period, shifting between 42% and the current 56% high who have said they prefer to work, rather than serving in a homemaker role, if they were free to do either. Historically, the low point in women's preference for working outside the home is 36% in a 1974 Roper Organization poll.

While at least half of women overall have preferred working over staying home since 2007, as recently as 2003 and 2005, slim majorities of women favored the more traditional domestic role of homemaking.

Demographic Differences in Women's Preferences

Not only do men and women differ in their preferences for working or staying home, but there are significant differences in women's views, depending on their parental, work and educational status. The same is not true of men, who, regardless of their demographics, broadly prefer to work outside the home.

By 50% to 34%, mothers of children under 18 years of age are more likely than those with no children under 18 to prefer to stay at home and take care of the house and family. Many of these women are currently fulfilling this role in their households, which may account for their preferences. Women who have graduated from college and those who are currently employed are much more likely to prefer to work at a job outside the home.

Americans' Preference for Working or Staying Home, by Demographic Group
If you were free to do either, would you prefer to have a job outside the home, or would you prefer to stay at home and take care of the house and family?
Prefer to work outside home Prefer homemaker role
% %
Gender
Women 56 39
Men 75 23
Gender and parental status
Women with children under 18 45 50
Women without children under 18 62 34
Men with children under 18 71 29
Men without children under 18 78 21
Gender and employment status
Employed women 69 27
Not employed women 45 50
Employed men 80 19
Not employed men 67 30
Gender and education
Women with college degree 64 30
Women without college degree 52 44
Men with college degree 82 18
Men without college degree 73 26
GALLUP, Aug. 1-14, 2019

Looking more closely at the data, there are notable distinctions between those who do and do not have minor children. Two-thirds of mothers who are currently not employed and have minor children prefer to stay home, but 57% of mothers who are employed and have minor children prefer to work outside the home. At the same time, majorities of women who do not have children younger than 18 -- whether they are currently employed or not -- would opt to work rather than stay home.

Americans' Preference for Working or Staying Home, by Parental Status and Employment
If you were free to do either, would you prefer to have a job outside the home, or would you prefer to stay at home and take care of the house and family?
Prefer to work outside home Prefer homemaker role
% %
Parents of a child under 18
Employed women 57 36
Not employed women 30 67
Employed men 73 26
Not employed men 58 42
Not parents of a child under 18
Employed women 75 22
Not employed women 51 43
Employed men 85 14
Not employed men 69 28
GALLUP, Aug. 1-14, 2019

Again, the differences between men and women are significant, particularly among those who have children under 18.

Bottom Line

Women are more likely now than they have been in the past three decades to say they would prefer to work outside the home than to stay at home and take care of their house and family. While women made up 47% of the workforce in 2018, and cultural advances over the past 50 years have led to a change in social norms, women remain far less likely than men to say they would prefer to work. In particular, mothers of children under age 18 are more likely than those without younger children to prefer to stay home.

View complete question responses and trends.

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Gallup https://news.gallup.com/poll/267737/record-high-women-prefer-working-homemaking.aspx
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