Here’s How Much Economists Say Stay-at-Home Moms Should Get Paid

Photo of a young boy being homeschooled by his mother in his bedroom.
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Mother’s Day is one of those perfect opportunities to recognize your mom for all the wonderful things she does as a mother. But Is it really possible to assign a dollar amount to the value moms provide their families? Certainly, plenty of groups have tried over the years.

For example, Insure.com figures the wage a mom should earn for the 18 or so jobs she must tackle throughout the day is $126,725 in 2022, which is 9.2% higher than last year’s findings of $116,022. And according to Salary.com’s Annual Mom Salary Survey from May 2021, moms should be paid even more — $184,820.

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However, if you were to approach calculating how much a stay-at-home mom is worth like an economist, the amount you’d get would be nowhere close to those two figures. Of course, you can’t truly put a number on the invaluable love and nurturing a mom provides. But according to economists, you can use Labor Department data to determine the approximate market value of the work moms do almost 24/7.

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Find out how much economists say stay-at-home moms are worth and how your income would compare.

How Much Time Stay-at-Home Moms Spend Working

Workers often get paid based on how many hours they toil at their jobs. So an economist would apply this standard when figuring how much a mom would be worth. “The first step is to know how the average stay-at-home mother spends her day,” said Dr. Brian Strow, former BB&T professor for the Study of Capitalism at Western Kentucky University and current dean of the Rinker School of Business at Palm Beach Atlantic University.

The best source of information about how much time people spend doing various activities is the Labor Department’s American Time Use Survey. According to the ATUS, married mothers who are not employed and are in a household with a child under age 18 spend an average of 6.17 hours daily on child care and household-related tasks.

Here’s the breakdown for some common tasks that correlate to paid jobs:

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Hours Spent on Child Care and Household Tasks

  • Caring for and helping household children: 2.56 hours
  • Housework: 1.56 hours
  • Food preparation and cleanup: 1.6 hours
  • Travel related to caring for and helping household children: 0.32 hours
  • Lawn and garden care: 0.13 hours

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The Market Value of Stay-at-Home Moms’ Labor

The next step is to figure out how much how much the activities a stay-at-home mom does are worth. If you did this like an accountant, you would multiply the number of hours spent on each activity by the hourly wage someone in that type of industry earns, Strow said. Then you would add up the amount earned for every activity to get the total value of a stay-at-home mom’s production.

But you would add another variable to your calculations if you looked at this like an economist. “You would do the same thing you just did, but then subtract out the market value of production done by working moms,” Strow said. “That way you isolate the extra production that occurs due to the fact that the woman is stay-at-home mom. If you don’t do this step, you are not getting at the marginal benefit derived from being a stay-at-home mom.”

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In other words, all moms have to do some level of childcare and housework regardless of whether they also work outside of the home. That level serves as a sort of baseline — the work moms do for free, so to speak, because of the nature of their responsibilities as mothers. The value of what a stay-at-home mom does is the amount of work she can do beyond that baseline because she has more time for those activities.

How Much Moms Could Get Paid for Child Care

According to the Labor Department, the median hourly wage for child day care services is $13.22. If a stay-at-home mom were to earn an equivalent wage for child care, she would make $33.84 a day for an average of 2.56 hours spent providing care for her children.

  • Annual income for childcare: $12,351.60 (multiplied $33.84 x 365)

How Much Economists Say Moms Could Get Paid for Child Care

Remember, an economist would calculate the marginal value (the additional value) of the child care a stay-at-home mom provides by subtracting the amount of time working moms spend doing the same task. According to the ATUS, married moms with full-time jobs spend 1.35 hours a day providing child care.

From an economist’s point of view, a mom would spend 1.35 hours, on average, caring for her children even if she had a job. So the real benefit of being a stay-at-home mom is just the extra 1.21 hours she is able to dedicate to her kids, multiplied by the $13.22 hourly pay of a childcare worker, which equals $16 per day.

  • Annual marginal value of childcare provided by a stay-at-home mom: $5,840 (multiplied $16 x 365)

How Much Moms Could Get Paid for Cooking

The median annual pay for a chef is $50,160 which translates to $24.11 per hour for a 40-hour work week. Considering that stay-at-home moms spend an average of 1.6 hours a day on food preparation and clean-up, they would make $38.58 a day if they earned a chef’s wages.

  • Annual income for cooking: $14,081.70 (multiplied $38.58 x 365)

How Much Economists Say Moms Could Get Paid for Cooking

Married moms with full-time jobs spend 0.8 hours a day, on average, preparing meals and cleaning up afterwards. Because an economist would consider this the de facto amount of time moms spent cooking, the benefit stay-at-home moms provide is an extra 0.8 hours making food for their families. That translates to daily wages of $19.29 for cooking.

  • Annual marginal value of cooking provided by a stay-at-home mom: $7,040.85 (multiplied $19.29 x 365)

How Much Moms Could Get Paid for Housework

The mean hourly wage for housekeepers is $13.84. If stay-at-home moms were to earn that much for housework, they would make $21.59 a day for the 1.56 hours they spend, on average, cleaning their homes.

  • Annual income for housework: $7,880.35 (multiplied $21.59 X 365)

How Much Economists Say Moms Could Get Paid for Housework

Working moms spend about half as much time — 0.74 hours — on housework as stay-at-home moms. So the value stay-at-home moms provide is an extra 0.82 hours of housework daily. From an economist’s point of view, they should get paid an amount so meager that a cheapskate would love it: just $11.35 a day.

  • Annual marginal value of housework provided by a stay-at-home mom: $4,142.75(multiplied $11.35 x 365)

How Much Moms Could Get Paid for Transporting Kids

According to the Labor Department, the median hourly pay for passenger vehicle drivers is $18.05. Stay-at-home moms spend an average of 0.32 hours a day driving their kids. So they could make $5.78 a day if they earned a taxi driver’s wages.

  • Annual income for transporting kids: $2,109.70 (multiplied $5.78 x 365)

How Much Economists Say Moms Could Get Paid for Transporting Kids

When you subtract the 0.24 hours working moms spend transporting their kids, the benefit stay-at-home moms provide is 0.08 hours of transportation services. That’s a marginal value of $1.44 a day, which isn’t even enough to pay for a gallon of gas.

  • Annual marginal value of lawn care provided by a stay-at-home mom: $525.60 (multiplied $1.44 x 365)

How Much Moms Could Get Paid for Lawn Care

With all of the other things moms have to do, taking care of the lawn doesn’t seem to be a top priority. Stay-at-home moms spend an average of just 0.13 hour a day working in the yard. If they were to earn the median hourly wage of grounds maintenance worker — $17.05 — they would make $2.22 for the amount of lawn work they do.

  • Annual income for lawn work: $810.30 (multiplied $2.22 x 365)

How Much Economists Say Moms Could Get Paid for Lawn Care

From an economist’s point of view, stay-at-home moms should actually get paid much less than  $810.30 a year for the yard work and gardening they do. That’s because working moms spend an average of 0.06 hours a day on lawn work — which means the benefit stay-at-home moms provide is only an extra 0.07 hours a day, worth $1.19.

  • Annual marginal value of transportation provided by a stay-at-home mom: $434.35 (multiplied $1.19 x 365)

Total Value of a Stay-at-Home Mom’s Work

There’s no doubt that stay-at-home moms add value to their households. On average, they spend almost twice as many hours caring for children and doing household work as working moms. From an accounting standpoint, the total stay-at-home moms would earn annually based on the wages of workers in jobs similar to the daily tasks they perform would be $37,233.65.

However, in the eyes of an economist, it’s that extra value provided by stay-at-home moms — the 2.98 more hours they spend a day on childcare and household work than working moms — that determines their market value. When you isolate that additional time, economists would value a stay-at-home mom’s work at $17,983.55 a year.

But let’s face it: The true value of everything moms do, whether they work at an official job or not, is priceless.

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Cynthia Measom and Daria Uhlig contributed to the reporting for this article.

About the Author

Cameron Huddleston is an award-winning journalist with more than 18 years of experience writing about personal finance. Her work has appeared in Kiplinger’s Personal Finance, Business Insider, Chicago Tribune, Fortune, MSN, USA Today and many more print and online publications. She also is the author of Mom and Dad, We Need to Talk: How to Have Essential Conversations With Your Parents About Their Finances. U.S. News & World Report named her one of the top personal finance experts to follow on Twitter, and AOL Daily Finance named her one of the top 20 personal finance influencers to follow on Twitter. She has appeared on CNBC, CNN, MSNBC and “Fox & Friends” and has been a guest on ABC News Radio, Wall Street Journal Radio, NPR, WTOP in Washington, D.C., KGO in San Francisco and other personal finance radio shows nationwide. She also has been interviewed and quoted as an expert in The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Forbes, MarketWatch and more. She has an MA in economic journalism from American University and BA in journalism and Russian studies from Washington & Lee University.

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