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 $116,022, up from $93,920 last year due to added responsibilities stemming from the pandemic. Meanwhile, Salary.com claims that the work moms do is worth a staggering $184,820 after factoring in chief financial officer and chief operating officer roles — roles Salary.com said doubled since last year in terms of time spent, to over 20 hours per week, due to the pandemic.
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.
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:
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
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.”
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 $11.57. If a stay-at-home mom were to earn an equivalent wage for child care, she would make $29.62 a day for an average of 2.56 hours spent providing care for her children.
Annual income for childcare: $10,811.30
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 $11.57 hourly pay of a childcare worker.
Annual marginal value of childcare provided by a stay-at-home mom: $5,110
How Much Moms Could Get Paid for Cooking
The median annual pay for a chef is $53,380, which translates to $25.66 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 $41.06 a day if they earned a chef’s wages.
Annual income for cooking: $14,986.90
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 $20.53 for cooking.
Annual marginal value of cooking provided by a stay-at-home mom: $7,493.45
How Much Moms Could Get Paid for Housework
The mean hourly wage for housekeepers is $13.47. If stay-at-home moms were to earn that much for housework, they would make $21.01 a day for the 1.56 hours they spend, on average, cleaning their homes.
Annual income for housework: $7,668.65
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 $11.05 a day.
Annual marginal value of housework provided by a stay-at-home mom: $4,033.25
How Much Moms Could Get Paid for Transporting Kids
According to the Labor Department, the median hourly pay for passenger vehicle drivers is $16.67. Stay-at-home moms spend an average of 0.32 hours a day driving their kids. So they could make $5.33 a day if they earned a taxi driver’s wages.
Annual income for transporting kids: $1,945.45
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 $1.33 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: $485.45
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 — $15.49 — they would make $2.01 for the amount of lawn work they do.
Annual income for lawn work: $733.65
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 $733.65 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 $1.08.
Annual marginal value of transportation provided by a stay-at-home mom: $394.20
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 $36,189.75.
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 $17,472.55 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.
Daria Uhlig contributed to the reporting for this article.
Information is accurate as of Nov. 30, 2021.