A new survey reveals that American families face profound pressures and that most married mothers believe the ideal household socioeconomic arrangement is a full-time earner and a stay-at-home parent raising young children.
The 2021 Home Building survey released last month by American Compass Research detailed how families in the U.S. are socio-economically. Among parenting-age adults 18-50, only those who are married and have the highest income and education levels are likely to report that they have achieved what is known as the "American Dream."
Only 25% of the general population say they have achieved it, whereas 55% say they are getting by but do not have the life they desire. Twenty percent say they are "struggling and worried for the future."
For Americans who say their families are growing, nearly half report that they have fewer children than they would like. Those surveyed in lower, working, and middle-class households are at least twice as likely to cite "affordability" rather than a career or lifestyle as the reason why they've had fewer children. By contrast, upper-class parents are more likely to say that their lifestyle or career is why they do not have more children, according to the data.
Among married mothers, 53% said they "prefer to have one full-time earner and one stay-at-home parent while raising children" younger than 5. This arrangement was preferred by "lower-, working-, and middle-class respondents."
Meanwhile, upper-class adults were more likely to say they prefer having both parents working full time while the family takes advantage of paid, full-time childcare.
Political ideologies and approaches to public policy vary across all classes. Regardless of parental status, 60% to 75% of Americans say the government ought to do more to support families.
Slightly more than a quarter of respondents favored some kind of direct cash payment. Forty-three percent selected direct cash assistance or a wage subsidy, and 43% selected paid family leave or subsidized childcare.
Across all class demographics except for the upper class — which is defined in the study as having an annual household income of over $150,000 — Americans are most likely to prefer as ideal having a full-time income earner while also have a stay-at-home parent to raise young children.
Conducted by YouGov in late January, The American Compass Home Building Survey used a representative sample of 2,000 adults aged 18 to 50 living in the United States, including 1,174 respondents who reported being a parent or guardian.
Respondents were instructed to answer the questions as if the COVID-19 pandemic had not happened, as though they were living before the disease outbreak, or how they expect life to be after the pandemic has ended.