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Anchored by Jake Tapper, The Lead airs at 4 p.m. ET on CNN.

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May 29th, 2013
05:56 PM ET

Study: Women primary income source in 40% of U.S. homes

Americans are becoming increasingly comfortable with more moms in the workplace. A new Pew poll shows the share of American households with kids led by bread-winning women has quadrupled over the past half-century, to 40%.

Part of the change is self-evident. These days women make up about half of the workforce in the United States, but there are changing family dynamics at play.

Single moms are running a quarter of all American homes with children - a share that has more than tripled since 1960. They still make less money than their married counterparts.

Two-career households are also on the rise, in 2011, 65% of married mothers with children held a steady job.

Increasingly, women are also out-earning their husbands. In 1960, just 4% of married women had the bigger paycheck. In 2011, it was 23%.

Think fewer housewives, more Real Housewives. Like Bethenny Frankel, the reality star turned millionaire entrepreneur who said she would like to see her daughter become a top earner as well.

"I'm hoping that Brynn never wants to date anybody because they're wealthy and that they can take care of her. I am hoping that Brynn knows that being taken care of is emotional and not financial," Frankel told CNN.

Millionaires aside, the Great Recession may have pushed more women into the workforce, and more men out of well-paying blue collar jobs. It also accelerated the shift in how people view women who ditch the apron for the briefcase.

From 2007 to 2012, mothers who want to work full-time jumped from 20% to 32%.

"Part of it is the recession, but part of it is women are the majority of college students," said Liza Mundy, author of "The Richer Sex: How the new majority of female breadwinners is transforming sex, love and family."

"The educational advantage is starting to show up in their paychecks," said Mundy.

Not everyone is thrilled about women in the workforce - just 21% of the people Pew surveyed last year said moms with young children working outside the home is a good thing for society.

It also remains to be seen if the new numbers represent a win for gender equality. There are still great income disparities between men and women in the same job.

"What you have is women who are primary earners in their households, but they're not making as much as a man might in the workplace," said Mundy. "You have women supporting households on less than what a man might make."

There still exists, to a certain extent a marriage premium for men in the workplace. Earlier in the 20th century, men would be paid more just because they were married, and were fathers. Women's earnings were viewed as supplementary.

"The workplace still hasn't quite woken up to the fact that women are supporting their households, this isn't pin money, it isn't supplementary money," said Mundy. "It's the primary money that's going to run these households, and run children."

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