Just 51% of American women prefer to have a paying job outside the home, according to a new survey from Gallup. Even among women with full-time jobs, only 57% say they’re actually doing what they want: 40% of them say they’d prefer to stay home to care for the house and family. Meanwhile, 76% of men say their ideal lifestyle includes working outside the home.
There are some some interesting differences between various groups of women, too: 59% of Democratic women prefer to work outside the home, compared to just 37% of Republican women. And college-educated women are also much likelier to prefer paid work (57%) compared to women without college degrees (41%). Finally, unmarried women (55%) are likelier to prefer work than married women (46%).
Gallup presents the very fact that more than half of women prefer to work outside the home as notable. During the boom years of the mid-2000s, the percentage of women who said they preferred to work plummeted to just 42%. But to me, the interesting thing here is how big the differences are between women and men’s ideal lifestyles.
In the past few years, it seems like there have been more articles written about stay at home fatherhood than there are actual dads volunteering to stay home. A CNN story earlier this year reported that for families with kids under age 5, 20% of dads served as primary caretaker. But the numbers here tell a different story: The percentage of men who say they’d prefer to stay home has remained basically unchanged since 1992, and has never risen above 30%. Currently, just 22% of men say they’d want to stay home if they could, a number that is near its lowest point in 10 years.
In many cases, the economy has made the stay-at-home decisions for dads by pushing them out of work. They’re staying at home by default, not by grand life plan. This is clear by the contrast between how employed and not-employed women approach work, compared to men in the same groups. Men without jobs (81%) are almost twice as likely as women without jobs (44%) to say they’d prefer to have a job outside the home. It will be interesting to see if the stay-at-home-dad trend continues as the economy continues to improve.