ChapterPDF Available

Over the Long Haul: The Persistent Economic Consequences of Single Motherhood


Abstract and Figures

Purpose – This chapter examines change over time in income, human capital, and socio-demographic attributes for married, divorced, and never-married mothers Methodology/approach – The chapter consists of descriptive analysis of data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth's 1979 cohort. Respondents were followed from 1979 to 2006. Findings – The economic consequences of single motherhood are persistent. Women who have once been divorced or never-married mothers remain poorer through middle age, no matter how their family structure subsequently changes. Social implications – A critical feature of the modern economic and demographic landscape is the intersection of individual and family characteristics. Many divorced and, especially, never-married mothers experience profound disadvantage even before they become mothers. Single mothers in general are far less likely to have college degrees, and, in the case of never-married mothers less likely to even have a high school diploma. Never-married mothers are also much less likely to be employed. Single mothers have less educated parents, and are themselves more likely to come from nonintact families. All of these disadvantages contribute to the economic costs – and the economic stress – of single motherhood. Originality/value of paper – The chapter demonstrates that single mothers comprise two very different populations, divorced and never-married mothers. However, both are at a substantial disadvantage compared to married mothers.
Content may be subject to copyright.
A preview of the PDF is not available
This study examined the relationship between single mother’s poverty and their young adult children’s depression, and it examined the mediating effect of young adults’ income on the relationship. The National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979 (NLSY79) and the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 79 for Children and Young Adults (NLSY79 CY) were used. A total of 4,224 dyads were selected and the mediation model was conducted. Single mother’s poverty was related to low income and depression among their young adult children. The relationship between mother’s poverty and their young adult children’s depression was partially mediated by their young adult children’s income. Poverty prevention or reduction programs for female-headed households should be provided to single mothers to reduce future levels of depression among their young adults. Improving inequality in intergenerational economic mobility is one way to address depressive symptoms among the young adult children of single mothers in poverty.
An increase in single parenting, especially among women, has become a global concern as existing evidence continues to show that single motherhood is associated with higher risks of poverty, reproduction of poverty and other negative outcomes that affect the well-being of single mothers and their children. Using pooled data obtained from the Demographic and Health Surveys in Africa, this study examined single parenthood in Africa, with a specific focus on its prevalence, determinants and consequences. The results show that over 22% of women aged 20–49 years in Africa were unmarried mothers. The significant factors associated with never-married parenthood among women in the region include current age, place of residence, highest level of education, occupation, household wealth quintile, birth order as firstborn child, experience of intimate partner violence by respondent’s mother, access to the media, community level of poverty and community level of female education. Notably, most of the determinants were similar across the subregions in their direction of association. Among all categories of single mothers in the region, the never married were the most vulnerable in all eight indicators of multidimensional deprivation. In conclusion, unmarried motherhood is obviously a common nuptiality pattern in contemporary Africa. With its diverse implications for well-being, family-oriented policies, programmes and studies have become more imperative.
Full-text available
Motherhood is associated with lower hourly pay, but the causes of this are not well understood. Mothers may earn less than other women because having children causes them to (1) lose job experience, (2) be less productive at work, (3) trade off higher wages for motherfriendly jobs, or (4) be discriminated against by employers. Or the relationship may be spurious rather than causal; women with lower earning potential may have children at higher rates. Using 1982-1993 NLSY data, we examine the motherhood penalty with fixed-effects models chosen to avoid spuriousness. We find penalties of 7 percent per child. Penalties are larger for married women. We show that women with (more) children have less job experience; after controlling for this, a penalty of 5 percent per child remains. We examine whether potentially "mother-friendly" characteristics of the jobs held by mothers explain any of the penalty, but find little evidence of this beyond the tendency of more mothers to work part-time. The portion of the motherhood penalty we cannot explain probably results from effects of motherhood on productivity and/or from employers' discrimination against mothers. While the benefits of mothering diffuse widely, to the employers, neighbors, friends, spouses, and children of the adult who previously received the mothering, the costs are borne disproportionately by mothers.
This review pulls together research on home leaving, home returning, parent-child coresidence, and the launching process and integrates it with theoretical perspectives related to the life course. Material is included from Australia, Canada, and Britain as well as the United States. Because the nuclear family form specifies that children leave the parental home when they marry and few married persons live with their parents, the focus is on relationships between unmarried children and their parents. The review concentrates on the young adult years while recognizing coresidence experiences over the life course. The nature of the link between residence patterns, family relationships, and dependence is an empirical question that, for the most part, has not been answered.
Growing up in a divorced family can cause the children to have difficulties in maintaining relationships. Nicholas Wolfinger demonstrates the significant impact of parental divorce upon people's lives and society. The divorce cycle phenomena ensures the transmission of divorce from one generation to the next. This book examines how it has transformed family life in contemporary America by drawing on two national data sets. Compared to people from intact families, the children of divorced parents are more likely to marry as teenagers, but less likely to wed overall. They are more likely to marry other people from divorced families, but more likely to dissolve second and third marriages, and less likely to marry their live-in partners.
The relationship between the timing of a first birth and high school completion among women is examined using data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth. Employing event-history techniques, we find that a first birth influences eventual high school graduation, but not in the way previous studies have suggested. Using a modified status attainment model incorporating a life-course perspective, we find that having a baby does not predict dropping out of high school. Women who have a baby while still enrolled in school and remain in school are just as likely to graduate as women who do not. Among high school dropouts, however, a birth reduces the chances of eventual graduation. Policy and theoretical considerations are discussed.