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Working Mothers and Child Care


In 2010, 70.8 percent of women with children under 18 years of age were in the labor force (either employed or looking for work), and 64.4 percent were employed. Among men with children, 93.7 percent were in the labor force and 86.6 percent were employed. Employment among women varied by a number of factors. Of mothers with children from birth through age 5, 63.9 percent were in the labor force and 57.0 percent were employed. Of women whose youngest child was aged 6–17 years, 76.5 percent were in the labor force and 70.5 percent were employed. Employed mothers with children birth to age five were more likely to be employed part-time than mothers with older children (28.9 versus 24.6 percent, data not shown in graph images or in data tables on this site).

Although the proportion of mothers with children under the age of 18 who were employed was similar regardless of marital status (64.6 percent of married women versus 64.0 percent of those who were never married, separated, widowed, or divorced), the unemployment rate among those who were married with a spouse present was lower (6.3 percent) than that among mothers of other marital statuses (14.6 percent). Unemployment rates, which count individuals who are not employed but are available for and actively looking for work, increased between 2009 and 2010 for mothers of all marital statuses (data not shown in graph images or in data tables on this site).

In 2010, 48.2 percent of pre-school aged children were cared for by their mother, father, grandparent or some other relative while their mother worked. About one-quarter (23.7 percent) were cared for in a center-based setting, e.g., day care, and 13.5 percent were care for by a non-relative in a home-based setting, such as a family day care provider or nanny. Primary child care arrangements varied by poverty status. Among children with household incomes below the Federal poverty level, 15.4 percent were cared for in a center, compared to 25.6 percent of children with household incomes above poverty (data not shown in graph images or in data tables on this site).


This image is described in the Data section.

labor force participation by age graph

This image is described in the Data section.

childcare arrangements by race graph


Parent's Labor Force* Participation Rate, by Age of Youngest Child,** 2010
Age of Youngest Child Percent of Parents
Fathers Mothers
*Includes people who are employed and those who are actively seeking work.
**Children include sons, daughters, step-children, and adopted children.
Source: U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics. Employment Characteristics of Families, 2010. Accessed: April 8, 2012.
Children Under 18 Years 93.7 70.8
Children Aged 0-5 Years 94.7 63.9
Children Aged 6-17 Years 92.8 76.5
Primary Childcare Arrangements* for Children Aged 0-4 Years with Employed Mothers, 2010
Primary Source of Care Total
*The arrangement used for the most number of hours per week while the mother worked.
**Includes family day care providers, in-home babysitters, and other non-relatives providing care in either the child's or provider's home.
†Includes children in kindergarten or grade school, self-care, and with no regular arrangement; does not include school-based activities.
Source: Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics. America's Children: Key National Indicators of Well-Being, 2011. Accessed: April 8, 2012.
Mother 4.4
Father 18.6
Grandparent 19.4
Other Relative 5.8
Center-based 23.7
Other Non-relative** 13.5
Other† 14.1