Moms' Preference For Part-Time Work

A study out this week showing that more working mothers prefer part-time work drew a lot of media attention.

The Pew Research Center reports that 60 percent of working moms prefer part-time jobs over staying home or working full time, 12 points higher than a decade ago.

But the small size of the statistical sampling of working mothers--259 as a subset of a much larger group polled--is a red flag that raises questions about the findings. Normally, 1,000 or more are polled for a statistically accurate national sampling. In fairness to Pew, the fine print admits the margin of error is 8 percent, as opposed to a normal 3 to 4 percent margin of error attached to a larger sampling. But what the poll does not explain is that if there is an 8 percent margin of error, a 12-point change over a decade might be actually 4 percent, which is of little statistical significance. (Or it might be 20 percent.)

Still, experts attributed the reported change in attitude by mothers, working and not outside the home, to the intensive parenting style of generation X-ers coupled with the increasing demands of the workplace, where full-time work is often viewed as 50 versus 40 hours per week.

The Pew survey also revealed that while mothers are less enthusiastic about working full time, the same can't be said for men.

Seventy-two percent of fathers told Pew Researchers that working a full-time job suits them best. We don't know if men's desire to work full time is up or down from a decade ago. We called the Pew Research Center to check, and a spokesperson told us the center did not survey men on this point in 1997.

By Bonnie Erbe