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The Rise of Single-Parent Households in America

Wednesday, September 4th, 2013

Since 1960, single parents have more than tripled as a share of American households. In an article for The Atlantic, AEI’s Aparna Mathur and her coauthors Hao Fu and Peter Hansen note that single-parent households face significantly lower incomes, higher rates of health problems, and poorer educational outcomes.

According to a May report by the Pew Center, single mothers now account for one quarter of all U.S. households, with single fathers adding another six percent. The sharp increase in single-parent households is linked to lower family incomes, with the average single mother earning just 60% of a married mother’s average income in 2012. Mathur, Fu, and Hansen argue that this discrepancy can be partially explained by lower educational qualifications for single mothers, with the majority lacking college degrees.

Many single parents also struggle to balance full-time employment with childcare, the authors suggest, with just 60% of single mothers in full-time jobs compared to 80% of mothers with spouses. Non-traditional work schedules limit the earning potential of single parent households and also jeopardize the family’s well-being.