Less Help for Mother: The Decline in Coresidential Female Support for the Mothers of Young Children, 1880-2000

Research on changes in women's parenting has focused primarily on their increased likelihood of combining parenthood with paid employment, exploring the pressures that result from this "second shift" or "double burden." This article complements this approach by focusing instead on the likely reduction in the help that mothers of small children have received as declines both in fertility and the coresidence of nonnuclear adults have reduced the number of other women in the household. Using national census data for the period 1880 to 2000, we show a substantial decline in the presence and availability of other females in the household, as fewer are coresident and more of those who are coresident are employed or in school. Although all mothers experience this decline, it is most acute for mothers working for pay in nonagricultural activities.