Fifteen years ago, only 23% of moms didn't have jobs outside their homes—a modern low. If 2012's numbers are any clue, however, things are changing: The figure rose to 29%, Pew Research reports. The climbing numbers turn a three-decade trend upside down. What's changed? The AP highlights the high cost of childcare: On average, the weekly cost of childcare for families with working moms shot up 70% between 1985 and 2011, from $87 to $148. Some 34% of stay-at-home moms live in poverty, while 12% of working mothers do.
An increase in the number of immigrant mothers also helps explain the reversal, as immigrant moms generally stay home more than American-born mothers do—about 40% of them, compared to about a quarter of US moms. Many women are also unable to find work, and the recession didn't help, Bloomberg notes. Meanwhile, "most Americans continue to believe that it's best for children to have a parent at home," the study's lead author notes. Still, she says, "the majority of mothers would like to be in the workplace." (Read more mothers stories.)