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The Midwest is the region with the highest percentage of working mothers.
The Midwest is the region with the highest percentage of working mothers. Caiaimage/Sam Edwards—Getty Images/Caiaimage

Moms in the Midwest Are More Likely to Work Outside the Home Than Anywhere Else in the US

May 06, 2016

If you grew up in the Midwest, it's likely your mom balanced her parenting responsibilities with a full- or part-time job.

The Midwest as a whole is the U.S. region with the highest percentage of working moms, a recent analysis from the Minneapolis Star-Tribune found. South Dakota leads the nation in terms of percentage of working moms (84% of women), followed by Minnesota, Iowa and Nebraska, where 81% of moms work full-time, part-time, or are actively looking for work. Wisconsin, where 80% of moms are in the work force, rounds out the top five.

Nationally, 73% of women with children under the age of 18 are part of the labor force. Utah is the state with the lowest rate of working moms, at 63%.

Researchers are unsure why the Midwest has an above-average percentage of working moms. "Maybe it’s cultural— Midwesterners are hard-working—or maybe it has to do with wage equality or perhaps less gender discrimination," said Katie Genadek, a research scientist at the University of Minnesota. "It's likely a multitude of things."

In Minnesota in particular, many large companies make it easier for moms to keep working after they have kids, by offering benefits such as flex-time, job-sharing, generous parental leave, and childcare benefits.

Still, the rates of labor force participation vary significantly among moms. For instance, in Minnesota, just 76% of moms with a child under the age of one are in the work force, while only 58% of moms with five or more children are working. Women of color are also less likely to be working moms. Divorced moms, however, are more likely to be working full-time than their fellow mothers.

Moms' participation in the work force could also be a result of the fact that the wage gap is less severe in some Midwestern states than it is nationally -- -- which may give women more incentive to participate in the workforce. Nationwide, women earn 77% of what men earn, according to data from the American Association of University Women. But in Minnesota, women make about 80% of their earnings of male workers. In South Dakota and Wisconsin, women earn 78% of men's salary on average in South Dakota and Wisconsin.

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