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More Working Moms Staying With Infants

October 18, 2001

WASHINGTON (AP) _ More women are staying home with their infants for at least a year before returning to work.

Of the 3.9 million women age 15 to 44 who had babies between July 1999 and June 2000, about 55 percent returned to work, or were actively seeking work within a year of giving birth, the Census Bureau reported. That was down from a record high of 59 percent the last time the survey was conducted, in 1998.

The declines came mainly among white women, mothers older than 30, married women and those with higher levels of education _ characteristics of women who tend to live in families that make more money.

Still, for more of these women, it was a lifestyle choice rather than an economic one, said Catherine Carbone Rogers, spokeswoman for Mothers & More, an organization for women who have altered their career path to care for children at home.

Also, some companies are offering more flexible work options that allow mothers to delay returning to work, or which permit them to work limited hours at home.

Groups that did see an increase in mothers who returned to work within a year after giving birth include blacks, Asians, and women who were not high school graduates.

Left unclear is how recent the recent economic slide will affect that flexibility.

``Whether the declines are short-lived or will continue depends to a considerable extent on changes in the economy and changes in the lifestyles of new mothers in balancing work and child-rearing activities,″ said Census Bureau analyst Martin O’Connell.

Diane Caisse quit working part time from home as a travel agent earlier this year to focus on raising her 2- and 4-year-old sons.

``I decided I wasn’t doing a good job of doing either so I decided to stay at home to raise my kids,″ Caisse said.

But Caisse also said her situation is unusual compared to members of a working mothers support group she leads in suburban Washington, D.C. Lately, more women have been returning to work, at least part time, she said.

More pressure may be put on women now to find work soon after giving birth because of recent layoffs and the economic unrest, Caisse said.

The figures were part of a larger report on fertility; as a result, it did not include statistics on fathers.

Other highlights:

_The percentage of women age 15 to 44 without a child rose from 42.2 percent in 1998 to 42.8 percent in 2000.

_About 1.2 million women gave birth out of wedlock in the 12 months preceding the June 2000 survey. That was 31 percent of all births during that period.


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