At a glance

  • Lower-income mothers, as defined by the M.O.M.™ report, face significant financial stress, which impacts their ability to explore the very path that could help alleviate their stress: career progression.
  • Many moms, regardless of income, acknowledge that motherhood provides valuable skills such as multitasking, budgeting, problem solving and time management.
  • Paid time off (PTO) is crucial for working moms to address childcare needs, illness and school-related responsibilities.
  • 3 in 10 lower-income moms need assistance in finding education or training programs.
  • For the complete M.O.M.™ report, visit University of Phoenix Career Institute®.

2023 Mothers Overcome More (M.O.M.)™ report uncovers barriers for women in the workforce

According to data from the U.S. Census Bureau, women make up more than half of the U.S. population, and around 77 million are mothers. But there’s more to the story than just these statistics.

As Pew Research Center notes, traditional nuclear families with two married parents are now the minority in our country. The rise of single motherhood is the largest influence of this trend with four in 10 births happening in homes with mothers or women living with a non-marital partner.

These shifting demographics mean more and more women are taking care of children and working outside the home. And, as the new M.O.M.™ report from University of Phoenix and Motherly reveals, that’s presenting new challenges to address.

Financial stress: A basic needs barrier

Lower-income mothers* desire career progression, but daily financial burdens and a lack of career support hinder progress for many.

74% of lower-income moms stress about money, compared to 57% of higher-income moms.

Top concerns include insufficient emergency funds and difficulty affording essentials like groceries or gas.

51% of employed lower-income moms can’t afford basic needs.

Nearly 20% of working moms have multiple jobs to make ends meet.

External pressures like childcare, housing and transportation contribute to a cycle of inflexible, low-paying jobs.

Obstacles and opportunities for career progression

Over half of lower-income moms believe further education would enhance their career prospects. However, having a career feels like an out-of-reach luxury for 64% of them.

58% of working moms are considering going back to school in the next 5 years.

Lack of money (44%) and time (34%) are cited as top barriers to making the commitment to going back to school.

While many don’t have time or a clear pathway to go back to school, they are picking up valuable workplace skills. In fact, roughly nine in 10 moms, regardless of income tier, believe motherhood provides them with know-how in areas like:



Problem solving

Time management

The PTO dilemma

For many working moms, paid time off (PTO) isn’t an invitation to vacation. It’s a necessary benefit to take care of their children during illness, make sure they get to the dentist and pediatrician and to accommodate school recesses. But companies don’t always provide what working moms need.

Lower-income moms spend over 30% of their paycheck on childcare.

Nearly half (46%) of lower-income moms agree more paid time off would help them balance work and parenting.

25% of working moms take unpaid time off when childcare isn’t available, highlighting the importance of flexible PTO policies.

28% of working moms need to take time off every month to address childcare or personal reasons.

What working moms want

74% of working moms would be more satisfied if given the opportunity to further their education.

3 in 10 lower-income moms need help seeking education or training programs for better job prospects.

29% of lower-income moms are dissatisfied with employer tuition reimbursement programs.

About the Mothers Overcome More™ or the M.O.M.™ report

The Mothers Overcome More™ or the M.O.M.™ report is one of the most comprehensive studies to date on the barriers American mothers face in their day-to-day lives, and the impact these barriers have on career development and advancement opportunities. The study was conducted by the University of Phoenix Career Institute®, part of the University’s College of Doctoral Studies, in partnership with Motherly — a platform of storytellers, teachers, shoppers and advocates for mothers — in order to provide insights on lower-income mothers and to help identify solutions to support and advance them on the path to self-sufficiency.

The M.O.M.™ report comprised a 20-minute online survey of lower-income moms (n=1,000) and middle- and higher-income moms (n=500). All participants were U.S. adults (age 18 and up) who were employed or seeking employment at the time of research. Researchers conducted fieldwork between July 19 and Aug. 3, 2023. Income categories were determined using the University of Washington School of Social Work’s Self-Sufficiency Standard. A full methodology can be found at

For the complete M.O.M.™ report, visit University of Phoenix Career Institute®.

* Income levels were identified using the University of Washington School of Social Work’s Self-Sufficiency Standard (“the Standard”), which determines the amount of income required for working families to afford basic needs like housing, childcare, food and transportation. See study methodology.

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