The XX Factor

New Data Shows Working Moms Working Even Harder in the Recession

A new study from Citi shows that working mothers have been squeezed tighter than any other group during the recession, reports U.S. News & World Report :

Over half of the 1,000-plus women surveyed reported working longer hours, while just one in four women without children and one in three men reported doing so. Meanwhile, working moms have also adjusted their spending more than other groups: Three in four said their habits are forever changed, compared to six in 10 women without children. In fact, more than half of women with children said they’ve put off buying a car or other big-ticket item and 52 percent said they’ve tapped into savings to make ends meet. One in three said they’re headed back to school in order to ultimately improve their job prospects.

It’s not just low-income working moms who are feeling the squeeze, either-30 percent of women making more than $100,000 a year say they’re worse of than they were a year ago, and 70 percent have cut back on expenses.

This runs counter to the major narrative about gender and the recession: the ” mancession .” Men have lost jobs in greater numbers than women, partly because women tend to work in more recession-proof (but still lower-paying) industries. (This, by the way, is true to a greater or lesser degree in every recession, not just this one.) Even as there’s been a bit of handwringing over why women tend to cluster in those industries, it’s been accompanied by crowing over the shiny stat that women now make up 49.8 percent of the work force-this is always framed as a feminist victory, and in many ways it is.

But the Citi study provides an important reminder that the hard employment data don’t tell the full story about where and how economic pain hits. A recent poll of 1,000 women showed that women are more depressed by the recession than men . And the hard stats aren’t all rosy, either, as Christopher Swann of Reuters pointed out recently:

While women have been better at clinging onto their jobs, they have not done so well holding onto their salaries. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, women in full-time work saw their annual earnings fall at twice the pace of men in the early stages of the recession - losing almost 2 percent last year.

The news actually gets worse for women. Most measures of employment and salary suggest the gender revolution has stalled. The gulf between male and female salaries, which narrowed dramatically in the last 25 years, has started to widen again.

In 2005 women on average earned 81 percent as much as men. By the end of last year, this was slipping back to 79.9 percent. Much of this is accounted for by shorter working hours and choice of industry.

And while I’m being depressed about the recession, as is my womanly wont, I’ll throw some discouraging history into the mix. The children of the Great Depression and WWII grew up into the adults of the Eisenhower era, and, as Stephanie Coontz of Evergreen State College told the Christian Science Monitor in June, ” “The whole generation of kids who grew up in that associated their mothers’ work with their fathers’ depression,” Coontz says. “Instead of being proud of their mothers’ work, they were embarrassed.” That’s not to say history will replicate itself exactly-way too much has happened in the ensuing decades. Rather, it’s a reminder that the feelings surrounding loss of work can reverberate for longer, and more widely, than the hits to a bank account.

(More on this at Recessionwire .)