From Giving Birth to Boomerang Kids, Women Keep Losing Ground in the U.S

For nearly a century, women in the United States have had the right to vote. For decades we have had access to birth control so we could plan and space our children, and we’ve been able to enter the work force, where we’ve come close to earning what our male counterparts earn at their jobs. We have more education, more access to quality health care, more chances at economic security that comes from ourselves rather than as a payment for caring for the home and children while our significant others do the earning for us.

But what if the best is already behind us? What if we already reached the pinnacle of our gains, and now it’s all starting to fall apart? Statistics looking at the last decade could make the case that our best years of advancement are over, and that’s a frightening thought.

A new report from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington in Seattle has revealed that despite our advances in medical health and care as well as alleged availability of prenatal care and contraception, the United States is one of the few countries where the rate of maternal mortality is actually increasing. In 1990, our mortality rate was just 12.4 but then jumped to 17.6 in 2003 and continued to rise to 18.5 in 2013. In comparison, other developed countries still have a 12 percent mortality rate, and only countries like Afghanistan, Belize and El Salvador are seeing rising numbers like the U.S. has. Study authors say that the increases reflect both a problem with the medical system on the whole, which then leads to sicker women becoming pregnant, increasing the odds for death.

Increased risk of death during or directly after childbirth is a major shift in women’s health, but some things don’t seem to change at all. Like the “household” battle: when both parents work, who does more chores and childcare? Despite an increase in out of the house employment, women continue to bear the brunt of household work, to the point where some economic analysts are referring to it as the new “second shift.”

But as Bryce Covert writes over at The Nation, there’s a major reason why this is in itself a huge issue for equality between the sexes. As boys and girls grow up in homes where the female parent does more chores and more child care, while the male partner has more leisure, they begin to emulate the same patterns as they age. “There’s evidence that we carry these experiences as we age,” writes Covert. “One study found that boys who grew up only with sisters are 13.5 percent more conservative in their views of women’s roles compared to boys who grew up only with brothers. The researchers speculate that because their sisters are given the housework, those boys tend to assume domestic chores are women’s work.”

It’s harder to survive childbirth, and not only are we bearing most of the housework, but our doing so means that the next generation of women is likely to do so as well. However, the news doesn’t get any better once the children graduate, since the new economy, with its poor labor market for new graduates means those newly educated grads are probably coming right back home, unable to support themselves. When that happens, guess who ends up taking on more household work, again.

Right. Women.

And women are spending significantly more time taking care of these young adult children than men are.

It’s not news that women do more work around the house than men, or that women have less leisure time than men. What’s new is that the period of care is getting longer, even if it’s mitigated by the increased responsibility and independence of these adult children,” writes Heather Krause at the newly launched FiveThirtyEight. Based on Krause’s numbers, women with children who return home spend an average 8 extra hours a week doing household tasks than men do, resulting in essentially an extra day of work per week.

The problems that face us can’t be more obvious. We need to reinvest in our own health and reallocate our responsibilities in the home. We need to remember that even as caregivers, our own health, time and personal needs are essential. It’s too soon to start losing the ground we have already gained in establishing our own independent economic lives and security, and we must continue to fight to set healthy examples for the next generation, so they will make progress as well.

Photo credit: Thinkstock


Jim Ven
Jim V9 months ago


Jerome S
Jerome S9 months ago

thanks for sharing.

Janice Thompson
Janice Thompson3 years ago

We give and give and keep on giving.

Are we appreciated?

Catrin K.
Catrin S3 years ago

Thanks for sharing .

janet t.
janet t3 years ago

boy, some people need to turn on their spell-check!! I am an old girl and I will tell you that sexism is alive and well. More and more women are raising their kids alone, and not by choice. More and more women are being care givers in their old age. And with the economy not providing well paying or even decent paying jobs, of course kids are going to boomerang back home. The opening line of this article says it all. Women have had the vote for less than one hundred years in a democracy that is well over 200 years old.

Charlene Rush
Charlene Rush3 years ago

What Nikolas K.:
Your disconnected ranting says much more about YOU, than it does about the subject at hand. I don't care to embarrass you with an analysis of your utterances, but suffice it to say, that you concept of the female gender, does not come from a favorable place.

It's unfortunate that you had, what some may consider, such a tragic relationship with women. You probably won't believe this, but, all members of one club are not the same in character.
One thing is certain, if and until you are capable of reversing your attitude, you will only make 'bad' decisions when it comes to the opposite sex.

Ron G.
Ron G3 years ago

Nikolas K.:
The fact that you even think there is a "Right of Passage" exposes your ego, maybe due to European heritage and upbringing by a dominant male attitude in your family that falsely feels men are the ruler of the world. My paternal grandfather had that first name spelling and he was you. The hope is that descendants like myself affect change. I hope the same for you.

ERIKA S3 years ago

noted,thank you

A F.
Athena F3 years ago

Nikolas, it's losing. Not loosing. (Pet peeve)

Attention to detail may not be your strongest suit though. That much is apparent in your post, since you seem to have missed out on some crucial things. Why you would come up with such..creative thinking.. and then choose to spew it forth here, of all places... is beyond me.

I agree with Michael T. and hope the next spin of the wheel brings you enlightenment.

Marc P.
Marc P3 years ago

Nikolas K.: Time to take your meds now........