The Changing World of Moms

I’m a big believer in research and hard numbers as legitimate indicators of trends. Recently, I’ve been reflecting on how demographic studies have identified so many changes in the world of moms since my company began marketing to them exclusively 25 years ago.

I thought I’d share some of those stats with you, along with thoughts on what they mean to brands targeting the mom market:

  • The number of mothers in the work force jumped from 37% in 1968 to 65% in 2011. While it’s no longer news that women work outside the home, the percentages here show how striking a change there has been in the last 40-some years.
  • Today, women are the sole or main breadwinner in about 40% of U.S. households. While this figure doesn’t point exclusively to moms, they are most certainly included. Women making more than their husbands was rare not very long ago and unheard of in my own mother’s time.
  • Single parent households are a growing share of all American families. Back in 1960, 92 percent of all households had two married parents raising children while in 2011 the number was 67 percent. Again, a dramatic change in what “family” means in this country.
  • 40% of all children are born to single moms – an increase from 1.9 million in 1960 to 8.6 million by 2011.
  • The number of single dads has also grown exponentially. In 1960 there were 300,000 households headed by single dads. By 2011 that had escalated to more than 2.6 million.
  • There are now 52 million Hispanic families in the U.S. – making Hispanics the nation’s largest ethnic minority at 16.7% of the entire population. Almost 50% of Hispanic households have children in the home, which is more than any other racial or ethnic group in the U.S. Hispanics also make up 20% of U.S. families with children under the age of 6.

The degree of change over the lifetime of many of the folks reading this post has been extraordinary. But what does it mean in terms of how marketers need to think about their marketing plans?

In my view, there are certain messages that appeal to all parents, regardless of their income, marital status, or ethnic background, especially when it comes to purchasing a product for their child. The themes that rings true are: This will make my child healthy/safe, it will help him be smarter/more successful, it will provide me with convenience/save me time and it offers value.

But that convenience factor, for example, will be more significant to the single mom or dad.  Interestingly, today’s single mom is much more varied in terms of background and income than in the past.  She could still be the low income or working class young, never-married mother that most people still connect to single parenthood. On the other hand, she may well be the divorced mom or the “choice mom,” a single woman who planned to become a mother despite being unmarried. Choice mothers tend to be educated, in their 30s or early 40s. Products and messaging suitable for one of these single-mom groups may not play well with others – another indicator of how companies need to look at their target audience closely and carefully.

Working mothers, including those who earn more than their spouses, may well be responsible for making household-related purchases once handled solely by their partners. Many of today’s moms – “mompreneurs,” another growing demographic — are running their own businesses, and responsible for approving purchases of everything from office space to the furniture, equipment and supplies that fill it.

Hispanics moms are clearly an excellent target when promoting products for preschoolers. But make no assumptions as to what language they want you to communicate in or over what channel. Hispanics are early adopters when it comes to technology. For example, 16% of Hispanic shoppers are using their mobile device to make purchases, as compared to only 10% of Caucasians.

What this means is simply that the mom market is never static, that there have likely been more changes here over the last generation or two than in any other “niche” demographic and that, increasingly, marketers need to carefully study the direction of the flow before they decide to go with it.