Skip to main content

Infographic on working families headed by women. Disproportionately likely to be low-income, with that percentage growing.

It's no secret that single mothers are disproportionately likely to be poor, but the scope of the problem is still a bit of a shock. Not only are families headed by working mothers particularly likely to be poor, but they're becoming more so.

While 22 percent of families are headed by a working mother, women head 39 percent of all low-income families, according to a new report from the Working Poor Families Project. That's 4.1 million families. What's more, "The share of female-headed working families that are low-income increased from 54 percent in 2007 to 58 percent in 2012." Unsurprisingly, women of color are hit especially hard:

While female-headed working families make up about 39 percent of low-income working families nationwide, the proportion is much higher among African Americans (65 percent), compared with whites (36 percent), Asians (20 percent), Latinos (31 percent) and those in other racial groups (45 percent). However, in terms of overall numbers, whites account for the largest group of low-income, working families headed by single women (1.6 million).
Women in this position face incredible barriers to success; just the lack of affordable, safe, reliable child care in this country prevents many women from being able to find or keep good jobs. Meanwhile, though 56 percent are working full-time, they are clustered in low-wage, low-benefits industries like retail and food service that leave their families near or below the poverty threshold.

This is a story in which a wide array of factors come together: America's sky-high income inequality, gender and race wage gaps, a low minimum wage, lack of parental leave and sick leave, the inaccessibility of higher education for many, and lack of child care. Just for starters. And since the United States also has low upward mobility, at least for people who are born at the bottom, children in these families are likely to be stuck in similar circumstances.

(Via Bryce Covert)

Originally posted to Daily Kos Labor on Wed Feb 19, 2014 at 01:02 PM PST.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

EMAIL TO A FRIEND X
Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags

?

More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

  •  It's a feature not a bug; America hates women as (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Carol in San Antonio, cai

    It hates POC.

    nosotros no somos estúpidos

    by a2nite on Wed Feb 19, 2014 at 01:21:04 PM PST

  •  ...which should surprise no one. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    nextstep

    Families having two adults that can work (or care for kids) instead of just one is a pretty large intrinsic advantage.

    Also, as a random nit, "lower upward mobility" is kind of a meaningless term.  A country has either high or low mobility... inherently, if you define mobility as being between percentages of wealth, you have exactly as much downward mobility as upwards.

    The only way you can have them unequal is if you use absolute poverty or wealth definitions instead of say, deciles.

  •  My favorite coworker (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    emeraldmaiden, a2nite

    ceded most custody of her younger son to her ex-husband b/c she was having trouble making ends meet as a single parent in a low-wage retail sector.

    She will remarry this spring, and I hope she can get custody back again.

    But that's a horrible choice to have to make: and she and the boy were lucky that her ex is a responsible person who could give the boy a good, safe place to live.

    Her older son ... well, his father is in jail.

    English usage is sometimes more than mere taste, judgment and education - sometimes it's sheer luck, like getting across the street. E. B. White

    by Youffraita on Wed Feb 19, 2014 at 01:30:26 PM PST

    •  So let me understand something... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Youffraita

      Your co-worker has one child from a bum in jail, another from an ex-husband, and is now re-marrying in the spring.

      I don't mean to be the wet blanket here, but since the ex is a responsible person and not a complete tool, a judge is unlikely to give custody back to any parent who has invited such frequent uprooting chaos in the life of a child.

      You are correct about one thing: That had to be a horrible choice to make, and I'm glad she thought of her child's well-being in this case. But at some point the poor choices we make in life come back to bite us in the bum. Hopefully she can stabilize her life and get back into the life of her younger child.

      Adequate health care should be a LEGAL RIGHT in the U.S without begging or bankruptcy. Until it is, we should not dare call our society civilized.

      by Love Me Slender on Wed Feb 19, 2014 at 01:53:56 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  The bum in jail (0+ / 0-)

        was when she was fifteen. She's much more together now. (Obviously, he isn't.)

        Her fiance is a great guy, and he loves both her boys.

        English usage is sometimes more than mere taste, judgment and education - sometimes it's sheer luck, like getting across the street. E. B. White

        by Youffraita on Wed Feb 19, 2014 at 03:25:26 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  Yes, and I'm left (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Noisy Democrat

        wondering why birth control isn't part of this discussion.

        I see teenagers all of the time lugging around not just one baby, but several.  At some point, we need to face the fact that people who apparently can't control their sex lives are producing too many children.

        Someone in science needs to invent a temporary sterilization solution or something that works better and is easier to distribute than what is currently in use....something that kids can use until they are ready to start families.  

        This wouldn't be controversial at all, I'm sure [snark].  But we really do need to address the driver of the problem - the sex drive overwhelms rational behavior.

        The banks have a stranglehold on the political process. Mike Whitney

        by dfarrah on Sun Feb 23, 2014 at 07:27:50 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Norplant or IUD. (0+ / 0-)
          Someone in science needs to invent a temporary sterilization solution or something that works better and is easier to distribute than what is currently in use....something that kids can use until they are ready to start families.
          Implanted hormonal contraceptives are about as close to what you describe as I can think of, although, after reacquainting myself w/ Norplant and its discontinued status (in the US), modern IUDs may be the best alternative. Unfortunately, they are both controversial, expensive (in the short run), and somewhat of a medical...difficulty...for lack of a better word.

          I'm just thinking--for the hormonal implants, mainly--that if the first prescription isn't the right match for a woman (causes headaches, other side effects), it's not nearly as 'simple' or relatively-inexpensive to 'fix' as The Pill--change the prescription, buy a new month's worth of pills and get on down the road.  With the old Norplant or IUDs, IIRC, it's expensive as an upfront lump-sum (though cheaper than a similar-time frame regimen of monthly oral pills), which limited its availability for lower-income women and families. And if the prescription needs changing, then the woman is right back to square one.

          IUDs, which had fallen out of favor in the last 30 years or so, mainly as backlash from the infamous Dalkon Shield. With that device, the 'removal' filament was braided, rather than being a single, solid string, and thus acted to "wick" bacteria and other nasty stuff to where it caused all sorts of infections and other terrible health effects for its users. But modern IUDs, esp. if the upfront cost issue can be dealt with, might be at least part of the solution you seek.

          "Push the button, Max!" Jack Lemmon as Professor Fate, The Great Race

          by bartcopfan on Mon Feb 24, 2014 at 11:02:14 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  The biggest factor: Lack of the father (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Love Me Slender, 1toughlady, nextstep

    The diary title says it all, yes single mothers are most likely to be poor.  That's because raising a child isn't something one person can do by themselves.  It's madness to even suggest it.  Everywhere there is a poor single mother, there is a man who abandoned his wife/baby mama and child to poverty.  End of story.

    Lack of child care doesn't just affect single mothers.  My wife wanted to keep her career.  But what she was making (far above minimum wage) would only just cover daycare, while giving our child to a stranger to raise.  She would work for free, without even considering a single other bill.  Nonsense.
    So instead she's staying home for a few years, with a few side gigs on weekends for some fun money.  And we'll have to sacrifice and make do.

    Being a mother is a full time job, there is no time for anything else.  When I get home, my wife cooks just to get some alone time.  But only because I'm there to watch our son.  She couldn't do it otherwise.  After he goes to bed, I do the dishes and laundry.

    But without my wife to watch him, I wouldn't be able to go outside and shovel the driveway, or do the grocery shopping.  I wouldn't have been able to rebuild the broken kitchen sink drain line.  Would have instead had to hire a plumber and spend $500 instead of $50 in parts.

    After six months with our son, I will state flat out, one person cannot raise a child.  Anyone who says otherwise is lying to you.  I make a very good wage, and if I had to raise my son alone, with absolute certainty I would fall into poverty.  A bigger paycheck alone doesn't fix this problem.

    Children need two parents to shoulder the load.  That is how families stay out of poverty.

    And yes, I put most of the blame on the worthless father for leaving.  But it takes two to get pregnant.  If you let a worthless man get you pregnant, you're going to be poor.  There's no magic wand to waive to fix that.

    •  BINGO, Norm...King Solomon himself... (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Norm in Chicago, a2nite, 1toughlady

      ...couldn't have said it better.

      Children need their fathers...in both financial and parenting respects. President Obama has hammered this point endlessly during his presidency. Men need to DEMAND a role in the lives of their children - and they need to work their rear ends off to support those they brought into the world.

      But similarly, women need to be very, very discerning with regards to who they choose to father these children. The responsibility rests with BOTH parents because many children bereft of one or the other suffer...period.

      Adequate health care should be a LEGAL RIGHT in the U.S without begging or bankruptcy. Until it is, we should not dare call our society civilized.

      by Love Me Slender on Wed Feb 19, 2014 at 01:57:31 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Or a man who died. (0+ / 0-)

      Or who was imprisoned thanks to our racist, classist drug war.

      © cai Visit 350.org to join the fight against global warming.

      by cai on Wed Feb 19, 2014 at 11:32:16 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Life insurance. (0+ / 0-)

        Real men prepare for a future where they're dead and their family must survive without them.

        But yes you are correct. When a man is arrested for smoking crack or gang banging, as racist as those sentences may be, mama is going to be poor for it.  

        Having a baby means putting the indulgences of youth aside.

  •  This a vicious cycle that needs education (5+ / 0-)

    to stop.

    My mother always said the fastest way into poverty is to birth your way there.  That was a pretty good observation to give a daughter that did not get too much sex education (some) and NO family planning in school.  My mother was progressive in her day and I miss her common sense observations.

    Yes, we need a higher minimum wage.  Yes, we need better child care.  Yes, we need affordable education.  But how about we focus on prevention as well.  A single person cannot survive on a minimum by any stretch of the imagination even if it were at $10/hr.  Adding a child to the equation is insane.

    This is the point I always pound home when I argue the birth control and abortion issue with republicans.  They argue that it is irresponsible to have babies without the income to match....I agree but the problem lies in prevention which the republicans refuse to allow taught in our schools.  This is in their lap.  Either pay for the babies or pay for the family planning education and birth control.  Which is cheaper and less damaging to our society?  Until they can get to this understanding, we will continue to have the problem.

    1. What does it mean? 2. And then what?

    by alwaysquestion on Wed Feb 19, 2014 at 02:00:38 PM PST

    •  Rec button is gone, but strongly agree w/ you! (0+ / 0-)
      ...the problem lies in prevention which the republicans refuse to allow taught in our schools.  This is in their lap. Either pay for the babies or pay for the family planning education and birth control. (emphasis added)

      "Push the button, Max!" Jack Lemmon as Professor Fate, The Great Race

      by bartcopfan on Mon Feb 24, 2014 at 11:06:48 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Cue blame the victim/'slut shaming' in 3-2-1... (4+ / 0-)

    Our ghastly pseudo-religious conservative craven corporate media will be all over this like white on rice, insinuating that it's proof women need to be hitched to a 'real man'.

    Ignoring the obvious reality that the working poor generally can no longer afford to get married.

  •  I have sometimes wondered if there is a place for (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Carol in San Antonio

    co-operative, voluntary group homes for teenaged mothers - a place where there could be child care during the day to allow the mothers to finish school or to work, the mothers could share some of the daily work of keeping a home going, and there could be an older couple present to help the young mothers learn about the world and how to navigate it. Could a few years in a setting like that help change later outcomes?



    Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary? . . . and respect the dignity of every human being.

    by Wee Mama on Wed Feb 19, 2014 at 04:23:59 PM PST

    •  Problem being that there (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Wee Mama

      would be A LOT of these homes this day and age.  But I take your point and like that you are thinking in terms of turn around.

      There is a school for teen moms in Detroit, read about that here: http://en.wikipedia.org/...

      The problem being that it is nearly double the per student cost for state/federal funds as a normal student and the enrollent is only about 100 teens where there are lot more teen moms than that in the area.  But at least it is a start and the record looks good.

      Everything points to prevention being the optimal way to go.  I give Obama credit for insisting that birth control be fully covered in the insurance plans now, but just wish we could get our school systems to embrace prevention by way of family planning and sex education.

      1. What does it mean? 2. And then what?

      by alwaysquestion on Wed Feb 19, 2014 at 04:55:03 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Yes, those homes exist. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Wee Mama

      I know a 16 year old who got pregnant and ended up going there.  It was sponsored by a gathering of the local churches.  She raised her child, finished her schooling, got a job, and raised her daughter.  It's a wonderful example of the churches coming together to make a difference.

  •  Part of the problem is child support, and how much (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    a2nite

    isn't paid, or how low the payments are.  For example, they might cover food and clothing for a child, but not the cost of renting a two bedroom apartment as opposed to a one bedroom apartment.  Or the cost of living in a safe neighborhood for children.  

    Or the cost of child care.  Or the cost of health care.

    Saying women should make better choices about who to reproduce with ignores the fact that plenty of single mothers start out married or in committed relationships that fall apart.  Shall we blame the women for that?  Half of all marriages end in divorce in this country.  Are only women who become impoverished thereafter to blame for this fact?

    As for "teen pregnancy", a disturbing proportion of such pregnancies resulted from grown men having sex with teenage girls. If someone isn't considered mature enough to vote, can we consider her to blame for the rest of her life for making a bad choice when she was fifteen or sixteen?

    Finally, the racist War on Drugs has taken away the employment and marriage prospects of many young men (including plenty on whom drugs were planted) because ex-felons will find it difficult to find a job, and cannot get any form of assistance or live in public housing.  Do we then blame women in the targeted communities for bearing children outside of marriage, or do we aim our disgust at the drug war and the low wages and the lack of child care and so on?

    "Punching down" is easy.  Let's not do it.

    © cai Visit 350.org to join the fight against global warming.

    by cai on Wed Feb 19, 2014 at 11:45:17 PM PST

  •  60% of Minimum Wage workers are women (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RUKind

    "If Wall Street paid a tax on every “game” they run, we would get enough revenue to run the government on." ~ Will Rogers

    by Lefty Coaster on Sat Feb 22, 2014 at 08:24:02 PM PST

  •  Hmmm. (5+ / 0-)

    No doubt I'll be flamed and banned from Kos . . . but . . . here goes.

    A couple of years ago a then-regular diarist, who was a champion of "multi-generational-single-female-headed households" published a diary in which she trumpeted the virtues of households comprised of grandmother, mother(s), and children -- the mothers generally being the daughters of the grandmother -- none of them married.

    I ventured the comment that, as an EMT, I've been in a LOT of such households and they generally are hellholes.  You can imagine the abuse I took over that comment.

    And now this.

    I realize anecdotes don't amount to much but here's one.  I'm an Advanced Life Support EMT in a rural, all-volunteer rescue squad.  Four years ago, one of our members was a high school senior, female.

    She lived with her mother, sister, the sister's children, and her mother's youngest child.

    Her mother had three children by three different men, never married, living with her latest boyfriend.  

    Her older sister had two children by two different men and all of them lived with the mother.

    Four of us in the squad talked with, counseled, mentored, and worked with this young woman.  We desperately wanted her to break the cycle.  However, she had one boyfriend after another.

    We had her convinced to accept a partial scholarship and a work-study offer at a small college.  Then she showed up with a new boyfriend -- who was separated from his wife and two children.  Within two months she was pregnant.  She and the boyfriend moved to his family's home in another state, she gave birth to a son. Now, with her son almost a year old, the boyfriend has ditched her, she's pleading with mother to let her move back home -- meanwhile, she's working 20 hours a week at a dollar store and begging money from mother, sister, and friends to feed the kid and pay the rent.

    I am not "blaming the victim," I am not "slut-shaming."  I'm speaking truth and facts.

    The  facts of life are that one person -- female or male -- cannot rear a child, not financially, not time-wise, not in any way.

  •  This has been so for decades. The base level of (0+ / 0-)

    SS and COLA at the low ends needs to be raised to make up for past inequities, along with increasing minimum wage for workers now.

  •  What companies are paying women less then men? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    AlexDrew

    I keep hearing women get paid 77 cents for every dollar men get paid for the same job.  What companies do that?  That is against the law.

    Most jobs i've ever seen do not say "salary for men $X, for women X-33%".  

    We need to point out companies that do this and put pressure on them to pay women the same as men.

    Stupid question hour starts now and ends in five minutes.

    by DrillSgtK on Sun Feb 23, 2014 at 04:15:30 AM PST

  •  Asdf (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    dfarrah, Be Skeptical, Noisy Democrat

    I noticed in your list of things that cause this problem you left out the most important one.....

    Irresponsible behavior.

    The best way to tell a Democrat from a Republican is to present someone requiring food and shelter. The Democrat will want them housed and fed, even if they be faking need. The Republican will gladly see them starve until all doubt is removed.

    by GayIthacan on Sun Feb 23, 2014 at 06:48:53 AM PST

    •  Heh (0+ / 0-)

      You should amend your sig. A whole bunch of Democrats will happily provide food and shelter to someone, but only after being able to publicly shame them.

      Time is of no account with great thoughts, which are as fresh to-day as when they first passed through their authors' minds ages ago. - Samuel Smiles

      by moviemeister76 on Mon Feb 24, 2014 at 10:55:26 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Asdf (0+ / 0-)

        Did I say it was a multiple choice question??

        :D

        The best way to tell a Democrat from a Republican is to present someone requiring food and shelter. The Democrat will want them housed and fed, even if they be faking need. The Republican will gladly see them starve until all doubt is removed.

        by GayIthacan on Tue Feb 25, 2014 at 02:18:35 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Single Mothers (0+ / 0-)

    News Flash: Don't be a single mother. Duh!

  •  It should be asked just why women have to head... (0+ / 0-)

    their households and what happened to the sperm "donor" so to speak...

    I'd say that America's dislike for women as well as people of colour as well as LGBT people is that a strong, authoritarian male (possibly also abusive and more...) was rebuffed and was told the "No" word, and also these males have been repeat offenders and cause maybe more than 1 woman head of household families each, betcha.

    And that is, the rebuffed authoritarian male has of course again blamed the victim and wants to regain control of his trophy kids, even at their peril.

    It's more than a woman's choice to have 3-5 kids and to be paid 75% of what a man would earn and also have the burden of single-handedly raising the kids. True, many women may have seen the writing on the wall and decided NOT to have a male except as a "donor" but I think those numbers are fewer than my suggestion above. Further, many other women have found a spouse other than a man and are living as a "single mother" because they cannot marry.

    I'd like to see the stats confirm or reject my ideas. :)

    Ugh. --UB.

    "Daddy, every time a bell rings, a Randian Libertaria­n picks up his Pan Am tickets for the Libertaria­n Paradise of West Dakota!"

    by unclebucky on Sun Feb 23, 2014 at 08:08:20 AM PST

  •  Slave Labor (0+ / 0-)

    If republicans have their way we'll all be poor, along with no Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security.

  •  Subordination of Women (0+ / 0-)

    It isn't fair that women have the duel role of managing a their families' private domain, as well as being responsible to represent their families in the public domain.  Women are supposed to be breadwinners and caretakers all by themselves.  

    While some women may successfully achieve this, many women fail because their environment is unfavorable to people in their positions.  Women are set up to remain subordinate in our current society.  How can a working, single-mother provide for her family in and environment where women earn only ¾ of what men earn for the same labor, and are also given the added responsibility of caretaker?    

    The unfortunate truth is that the next generation are the ones who are most affected by this gender inequality.  The limited health care and education these low-income mothers are able to provide are often not enough to protect their children from preventable health risks or early pregnancies.  In subordination women, we are really hurting the children of the next generation.  

  •  Don't forget inflation and lack of benefits (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    moviemeister76

    When I got out of college, in 1972, I got a job teaching high school English.  I earned about $7200/year, with the health insurance completely paid for by the school district.  I rented half of a bedroom in the basement of another teacher's house.  I didn't own a car or have any transportation expenses, insurance, etc.  No renters insurance to pay.  No gallivanting because I had no wheels.  No shopping except for the groceries I could carry home.  I had a school loan that wasn't very high.  I was able to save about $350 that year.  

    Just today I looked an an inflation calculator, put in that salary.  It would be about $40,000/year in 2014 wages.  

    So single parent or not, who earns that kind of money when they are starting out?  My son is a teacher with a Master's degree, teaches 6th grade, and earns $33,000, from which high insurance costs are taken out, and when they have a claim, they pay 40% after a very high deductible.  He's trying to support his wife and child, but besides rent, he has renters' insurance, car payments, and car insurance.  Fortunately his wife finally got a job, but now they have day care expenses.  

    There is no way a family can make it these days with one wage earner on a starting salary.

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site