The Third Shift: Child Care Needs and Access for Working Mothers in Restaurants

Source: Yvonne Yen Li, Restaurant Opportunities Centers United, in collaboration with: Center for Law and Social Policy, Family Values @ Work, Institute For Women’s Policy Research, MomsRising, National Organization For Women, National Partnership For Women & Families, National Women’s Law Center, Wider Opportunities For Women, 9To5, National Association Of Working Women, July 9, 2013

Despite the industry’s growth and potential for lifting the livelihoods of its workers, especially for women and mothers, working conditions have deteriorated and wages have not kept pace with growth. In fact, restaurant occupations employ the highest proportion of workers earning at or below the federal minimum wage. Food preparation and service-related occupations comprised over one-quarter of all U.S. workers who earned the federal minimum wage and almost 60 percent of all U.S. workers paid below the federal minimum wage. Restaurant workers are also often denied common employee benefits, such as medical benefits and sick leave. For example, in 2012, 77 percent of service sector workers, including restaurant workers, did not have paid sick leave.The vast majority of restaurant workers are unable to provide basic economic security to themselves and their families, meaning they must routinely choose what necessities their families will forego as they struggle to make ends meet.

All of this takes a terrible toll on women—especially mothers—working in restaurants. Over half of the workers in food preparation and related occupations are women, mostly concentrated in the lowest-paying occupations. Almost 2 million restaurant workers are mothers—15 percent of employees in the industry. More than half of them, 1.2 million, are single mothers with children in the household. More than 1 million are single moms with children under age 18. A mother as the primary source of income, or breadwinner mom, is not unique to the restaurant industry. Across the economy, four in ten households with children under age 18 have a female breadwinner, according to a 2013 Pew Research Center

Mothers pay both a gender penalty, as well as a motherhood penalty, earning less than males, fathers, and their childless female counterparts. Overall, female restaurant workers working full time, year-round, are typically paid 79 cents for every dollar earned by their male counterparts. Women with children pay a wage penalty of approximately 4 percent per child across all industries. Research has found that the motherhood penalty has the most severe impact on low-wage workers, including restaurant workers.

This research report seeks to answer three key questions:
1. What are the child care needs of mothers who work in restaurants?
2. What access to child care do they currently have?
3. What strategies would help these mothers access the child care they need?

See also:
Executive Summary