Single Mother Statistics, Facts, and Challenges [2022 Data]

According to recent single mother statistics, mothers make up the majority of single-parent households. And it hasn’t been easy for them and their children.

While single-parent families have been increasing in number in the U.S. for decades, single mothers still make up the majority of single parents and nearly 10% of all families. As a result, they face a variety of serious challenges, and their children often grow up with unique adversities.

These data points highlight some of the most interesting facts about single-mother families:

  • 3,247,000 children with unemployed single mothers are receiving no public assistance in the U.S. as of 2021. 
  • 44.87% of single mothers have no education past high school. 
  • Children of single mothers are more likely to have unmet healthcare needs. 
  • Schools are more likely to empathize with single mothers than single fathers. 
  • Most (52.48%) of single mothers only have one child under the age of 18.
  • 28.88% of single-mother families (2,531,000 families) were below the poverty level in 2021. 
  • The most common age group for single mothers with children is between 30 and 34, with 2,137,000 single mothers in that age group in the U.S. in 2021. 
  • Hawaii has the lowest rate of single mothers in the U.S.

How Many Single Mothers Are in America?

Using U.S. Census data, we can pinpoint just how many single mothers are in the U.S. and what percentage they are out of families overall.

Here are the numbers:

  • Of American families, single-mother families make up 9.9%. (U.S. Census Bureau, 2021a)1
  • 79.57% of single-parent families (8,765,000 families) were single-mother families in 2021. (U.S. Census Bureau, 2022)2
  • The number of single-mothers living alone with children under 18 has been increasing since 1950: (U.S. Census Bureau, 2022)2
    • 1950 – 1,272,000 Single-mother families
    • 1951 – 1,659,000 Single-mother families
    • 1952 – 1,514,000 Single-mother families
    • 1953 – 1,521,000 Single-mother families
    • 1954 – 1,615,000 Single-mother families
    • 1955 – 1,870,000 Single-mother families
    • 1956 – 1,814,000 Single-mother families
    • 1957 – 1,855,000 Single-mother families
    • 1958 – 1,822,000 Single-mother families
    • 1959 – 1,943,000 Single-mother families
    • 1960 – 2,099,000 Single-mother families
    • 1961 – 2,185,000 Single-mother families
    • 1962 – 2,229,000 Single-mother families
    • 1963 – 2,229,000 Single-mother families
    • 1964 – 2,361,000 Single-mother families
    • 1965 – 2,485,000 Single-mother families
    • 1966 – 2,450,000 Single-mother families
    • 1967 – 2,584,000 Single-mother families
    • 1968 – 2,772,000 Single-mother families
    • 1969 – 2,888,000 Single-mother families
    • 1970 – 2,971,000 Single-mother families
    • 1971 – 3,365,000 Single-mother families
    • 1972 – 3,598,000 Single-mother families
    • 1973 – 3,798,000 Single-mother families
    • 1974 – 4,081,000 Single-mother families
    • 1975 – 4,404,000 Single-mother families
    • 1976 – 4,621,000 Single-mother families
    • 1977 – 4,784,000 Single-mother families
    • 1978 – 5,206,000 Single-mother families
    • 1979 – 5,288,000 Single-mother families
    • 1980 – 5,445,000 Single-mother families
    • 1981 – 5,634,000 Single-mother families
    • 1982 – 5,868,000 Single-mother families
    • 1983 – 5,718,000 Single-mother families
    • 1984 – 5,907,000 Single-mother families
    • 1985 – 6,006,000 Single-mother families
    • 1986 – 6,105,000 Single-mother families
    • 1987 – 6,297,000 Single-mother families
    • 1988 – 6,273,000 Single-mother families
    • 1989 – 6,519,000 Single-mother families
    • 1990 – 6,599,000 Single-mother families
    • 1991 – 6,823,000 Single-mother families
    • 1992 – 7,043,000 Single-mother families
    • 1993 – 7,226,000 Single-mother families
    • 1994 – 7,647,000 Single-mother families
    • 1995 – 7,615,000 Single-mother families
    • 1996 – 7,656,000 Single-mother families
    • 1997 – 7,874,000 Single-mother families
    • 1998 – 7,693,000 Single-mother families
    • 1999 – 7,841,000 Single-mother families
    • 2000 – 7,571,000 Single-mother families
    • 2001 – 7,538,000 Single-mother families
    • 2002 – 8,010,000 Single-mother families
    • 2003 – 8,139,000 Single-mother families
    • 2004 – 8,221,000 Single-mother families
    • 2005 – 8,270,000 Single-mother families
    • 2006 – 8,389,000 Single-mother families
    • 2007 – 8,585,000 Single-mother families
    • 2008 – 8,374,000 Single-mother families
    • 2009 – 8,394,000 Single-mother families
    • 2010 – 8,419,000 Single-mother families
    • 2011 – 8,701,000 Single-mother families
    • 2012 – 8,869,000 Single-mother families
    • 2013 – 8,627,000 Single-mother families
    • 2014 – 8,550,000 Single-mother families
    • 2015 – 8,551,000 Single-mother families
    • 2016 – 8,525,000 Single-mother families
    • 2017 – 8,246,000 Single-mother families
    • 2018 – 8,156,000 Single-mother families
    • 2019 – 7,707,000 Single-mother families
    • 2020 – 7,472,000 Single-mother families
    • 2021 – 7,829,000 Single-mother families

Society’s Views on Single Mothers

Aside from the economic and parenting challenges, single mothers also deal with stigma from a society that largely views them in a negative light. 

These data points illustrate societal opinion on single mothers: 

  • Only 24.5% of men and 24.2% of women approve of single mothers, according to one study. The opinions of study participants on single mothers are as follows: (Fathering, 2006)3
    • Men
      • “All right” – 24.5%
      • “Neither” – 27.0%
      • “Not all right” – 50%
    • Women
      • “All right” – 24.2%
      • “Neither” – 25.8%
      • “Not all right” – 50.0%
  • One study found that more participants viewed single mothers as terrible or inadequate rather than a person in a challenging situation. Most negative comments were internal or personal, such as “immature,” “neglectful,” “irresponsible,” “careless,” or “promiscuous.” (Institute of Labor Economics, 2020)4
  • About two-thirds (66%) of the public view single mothers without a partner as bad for society. (Pew Research Center, 2018)5
  • Younger generations are more accepting of unmarried parents because a larger percentage of them are raised in single-parent families. Overall attitudes toward unmarried parents are becoming more egalitarian and approving. (Fathering, 2006)3
  • Schools are more likely to talk to and empathize with single parents and empathize with single mothers more than single fathers. This may be due to a general perception that single mothers have better internal qualities. (Institute of Labor Economics, 2020)4

Single Mother Demographics in the U.S.

The number and rate of single mothers vary by age, ethnicity, education, marital status, and other factors.

Here are the numbers that break down single mother rates by demographic:

  • Single Mothers by Age:
    • By age, the largest demographic group of single mothers is between 30 and 34. There were 2,137,000 single mothers in that age group in 2021. (U.S. Census Bureau, 2022)2
    • For single mothers with children under 18 – both with or without a cohabiting partner – the numbers by age group for 2021 are as follows: (U.S. Census Bureau, 2022)2
      • Ages 15 to 24 – 936,000 single mothers
      • Ages 25 to 29 – 1,817,000 single mothers
      • Ages 30 to 34 – 2,137,000 single mothers
      • Ages 35 to 39 – 2,054,000 single mothers
      • Ages 40 to 44 – 1,663,000 single mothers
      • Ages 45 to 49 – 1,095,000 single mothers
      • Ages 50 to 54 – 692,000 single mothers
      • Ages 55 to 64 – 247,000 single mothers
      • Ages 65+ – 106,000 single mothers
  • Single Mothers by Marital Status:
    • In 2021, unmarried single mothers made up 52.3% (4,587,000) of all single mothers. (U.S. Census Bureau, 2022)2
    • The numbers of single mothers by marital status in the U.S. in 2021 are as follows: (U.S. Census Bureau, 2022)2
      • Never married – 4,587,000 or 52.3% of all single mothers
      • Divorced – 2,565,000 or 29.3% of all single mothers
      • Separated – 1,286,000 or 14.7% of all single mothers
      • Widowed – 326,000 or 3.7% of all single mothers
  • Single Mothers by Ethnicity:
    • From 2016 to 2021, ethnic groups in the U.S. showed a decrease in the rate of single-mother families. White/Caucasians saw a 10.92% decrease, black/African-Americans saw a 10.81% decrease, and Hispanics saw a 3.49% decrease. (U.S. Census Bureau, 2022)2
    • The numbers of single-mother families with children under 18 in the U.S. from 2016 to 2021 by ethnicity are as follows: (U.S. Census Bureau, 2022)2
      • 2016
        • White
          • 6,019,000 single-mother families
        • Black
          • 3,007,000 single-mother families
        • Hispanic Origin
          • 2,321,000 single-mother families
      • 2017
        • White
          • 5,917,000 single-mother families
        • Black
          • 2,902,000 single-mother families
        • Hispanic Origin
          • 2,217,000 single-mother families
      • 2018
        • White
          • 5,639,000 single-mother families
        • Black
          • 2,855,000 single-mother families
        • Hispanic Origin
          • 2,257,000 single-mother families
      • 2019
        • White
          • 5,544,000 single-mother families
        • Black
          • 2,581,000 single-mother families
        • Hispanic Origin
          • 2,312,000 single-mother families
      • 2020
        • White
          • 5,341,000 single-mother families
        • Black
          • 2,622,000 single-mother families
        • Hispanic Origin
          • 2,234,000 single-mother families
      • 2021
        • White
          • 5,362,000 single-mother families
        • Black
          • 2,682,000 single-mother families
        • Hispanic Origin
          • 2,240,000 single-mother families
  • Single Mothers by Education Level:
    • Postsecondary credentials may help improve health and well-being; there is an association between higher education and improved health. (National Bureau of Economic Research, 2006)6
    • Higher education is critical for improving the quality of life for single mothers, as they inherently face great socioeconomic challenges. (Institute for Women’s Policy Research, 2020)7
    • The numbers of single mothers in the U.S. in 2021 – either with or without a partner – are broken down by education level as follows: (U.S. Census Bureau, 2022)2
      • Less than high school – 1,326,000 or 12.34% of single mothers.
      • High school graduate – 3,496,000 or 32.53% of single mothers.
      • Some college or associate’s degree – 3,514,000 or 32.70% of single mothers. 
      • Bachelor’s degree or higher – 2,410,000 or 22.43% of single mothers. 
  • Single Mothers by Employment:
    • 2,651,000 American single mothers were not in the labor force in 2021. (U.S. Census Bureau, 2022)2
    • In 2020, there were 2,181,000 unemployed single mothers (28.98% of all single mothers) in the U.S. (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2022)8
    • The unemployment rate for American single mothers in 2021 was 28.85%, meaning that 2,280,000 single mothers were unemployed. (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2022)8
  • Single Mothers by Income:
    • The median earnings of American single mothers with children under 18 in 2021 are as follows:
      • Cohabiting single mothers with joint biological child – $26,669
      • Cohabiting single mothers without joint biological child – $31,306
      • Single mothers with no partner – $29,718

Single Mothers by State

Some states have far more single-mother families than others, and the U.S. Census Bureau has ranked each state:

  • A ranked list of U.S. states by the percentage of households run by a single mother with no partner and at least one child under 18 is as follows: (U.S. Census Bureau, 2019)9
    • 1. Mississippi
      • 87,500 single-mother households (7.9% of all households)
    • 2. Louisiana
      • 126,922 single-mother households (7.3% of all households)
    • 3. Georgia
      • 260,853 single-mother households (6.9% of all households)
    • 4. Texas
      • 631,462 single-mother households (6.5% of all households)
    • 5. Alabama
      • 119,948 single-mother households (6.4% of all households)
    • 6. District of Columbia
      • 17,972 single-mother households (6.3% of all households)
    • 7. South Carolina
      • 119,301 single-mother households (6.2% of all households)
    • 8. Arkansas
      • 71,290 single-mother households (6.2% of all households)
    • 9. New Mexico
      • 46,481 single-mother households (6% of all households)
    • 10. North Carolina
      • 232,277 single-mother households (5.9% of all households)
    • 11. Tennessee
      • 149,294 single-mother households (5.7% of all households)
    • 12. Maryland
      • 126,029 single-mother households (5.7% of all households)
    • 13. Oklahoma
      • 84,741 single-mother households (5.7% of all households)
    • 14. Rhode Island
      • 23,342 single-mother households (5.7% of all households)
    • 15. Ohio
      • 263,760 single-mother households (5.6% of all households)
    • 16. New York
      • 403,905 single-mother households (5.5% of all households)
    • 17. Connecticut
      • 74,844 single-mother households (5.5% of all households)
    • 18. Illinois
      • 260,021 single-mother households (5.4% of all households)
    • 19. Indiana
      • 139,712 single-mother households (5.4% of all households)
    • 20. Nevada
      • 58,830 single-mother households (5.4% of all households)
    • 21. Kentucky
      • 92,571 single-mother households (5.3% of all households)
    • 22. Florida
      • 400,109 single-mother households (5.2% of all households)
    • 23. Michigan
      • 162,385 single-mother households (5.2% of all households)
    • 24. Virginia
      • 162,385 single-mother households (5.2% of all households)
    • 25. Massachusetts
      • 134,808 single-mother households (5.2% of all households)
    • 26. Missouri
      • 124,469 single-mother households (5.2% of all households)
    • 27. Delaware
      • 18,938 single-mother households (5.2% of all households)
    • 28. New Jersey
      • 165,997 single-mother households (5.1% of all households)
    • 29. Arizona
      • 129,340 single-mother households (5% of all households)
    • 30. Pennsylvania
      • 248,323 single-mother households (4.9% of all households)
    • 31. California
      • 631,664 single-mother households (4.8% of all households)
    • 32. Kansas
      • 53,063 single-mother households (4.7% of all households)
    • 33. Nebraska
      • 35,703 single-mother households (4.7% of all households)
    • 34. Wisconsin
      • 107,832 single-mother households (4.6% of all households)
    • 35. South Dakota
      • 15,962 single-mother households (4.6% of all households)
    • 36. Alaska
      • 11,572 single-mother households (4.6% of all households)
    • 37. Iowa
      • 57,047 single-mother households (4.5% of all households)
    • 38. Minnesota
      • 92,701 single-mother households (4.2% of all households)
    • 39. Colorado
      • 90,064 single-mother households (4.2% of all households)
    • 40. West Virginia
      • 30,537 single-mother households (4.2% of all households)
    • 41. Oregon
      • 65,575 single-mother households (4.1% of all households)
    • 42. Utah
      • 40,248 single-mother households (4.1% of all households)
    • 43. Idaho
      • 25,589 single-mother households (4.1% of all households)
    • 44. Washington
      • 115,308 single-mother households (4% of all households)
    • 45. North Dakota
      • 12,039 single-mother households (3.8% of all households)
    • 46. Wyoming
      • 8,802 single-mother households (3.8% of all households)
    • 47. Maine
      • 20,811 single-mother households (3.7% of all households)
    • 48. Vermont
      • 9,714 single-mother households (3.7% of all households)
    • 49. New Hampshire
      • 19,136 single-mother households (3.6% of all households)
    • 50. Montana
      • 15,179 single-mother households (3.5% of all households)
    • 51. Hawaii
      • 15,5667 single-mother households (3.4% of all households)

Number of Children Living With a Single Mother

While most single mothers only have one child, nearly half have at least two due to divorce, widow status, or other reasons. 

These statistics show how many children are living with a single mother in the U.S.

  • The majority of single mothers (52.48%) have only one child under the age of 18. (U.S. Census Bureau, 2022)2
  • The numbers of single mothers in the U.S. in 2021, broken down by number of children under 18, are as follows: (U.S. Census Bureau, 2022)2
    • One child – 5,639,000 single mothers
    • Two children – 3,364,000 single mothers
    • Three children – 1,197,000 single mothers
    • Four or more children – 545,000 single mothers
  • The number of children living with a single mother has increased from 5,105,000 in 1960 to 15,607,000 children in 2021 – an increase of 205.72%. (U.S. Census Bureau, 2021b)10
  • The numbers of children under the age of 18 living with a single mother in the U.S. from 1960 to 2021 are as follows: (U.S. Census Bureau, 2021b)10
    •  1960
      • 5,105,000 children living with a single mother (8.01% of all children under 18 in 1960)
    • 1968
      • 7,556,000 children living with a single mother (10.74% of all children under 18 in 1968)
    • 1969
      • 7,744,000 children living with a single mother (11.01% of all children under 18 in 1969)
    • 1970
      • 7,452,000 children living with a single mother (10.77% of all children under 18 in 1970)
    • 1971
      • 8,714,000 children living with a single mother (12.40% of all children under 18 in 1971)
    • 1972
      • 8,838,000 children living with a single mother (12.84% of all children under 18 in 1972)
    • 1973
      • 9,272,000 children living with a single mother (13.65% of all children under 18 in 1973)
    • 1974
      • 9,647,000 children living with a single mother (14.39% of all children under 18 in 1974)
    • 1975
      • 10,231,000 children living with a single mother (15.48% of all children under 18 in 1975)
    • 1976
      • 10,310,000 children living with a single mother (15.83% of all children under 18 in 1976)
    • 1977
      • 10,419,000 children living with a single mother (16.26% of all children under 18 in 1977)
    • 1978
      • 10,725,000 children living with a single mother (16.97% of all children under 18 in 1978)
    • 1979
      • 10,531,000 children living with a single mother (16.88% of all children under 18 in 1979)
    • 1980
      • 11,406,000 children living with a single mother (17.98% of all children under 18 in 1980)
    • 1981
      • 11,416,000 children living with a single mother (18.14% of all children under 18 in 1981)
    • 1982
      • 12,512,000 children living with a single mother (20.05% of all children under 18 in 1982)
    • 1983
      • 12,739,000 children living with a single mother (20.45% of all children under 18 in 1983)
    • 1984
      • 12,646,000 children living with a single mother (20.35% of all children under 18 in 1984)
    • 1985
      • 13,081,000 children living with a single mother (20.94% of all children under 18 in 1985)
    • 1986
      • 13,180,000 children living with a single mother (21.00% of all children under 18 in 1986)
    • 1987
      • 13,420,000 children living with a single mother (21.32% of all children under 18 in 1987)
    • 1988
      • 13,521,000 children living with a single mother (21.40% of all children under 18 in 1988)
    • 1989
      • 13,700,000 children living with a single mother (21.53% of all children under 18 in 1989)
    • 1990
      • 13,874,000 children living with a single mother (21.63% of all children under 18 in 1990)
    • 1991
      • 14,608,000 children living with a single mother (22.44% of all children under 18 in 1991)
    • 1992
      • 15,396,000 children living with a single mother (23.34% of all children under 18 in 1992)
    • 1993
      • 15,586,000 children living with a single mother (23.30% of all children under 18 in 1993)
    • 1994
      • 16.334,000 children living with a single mother (23.50% of all children under 18 in 1994)
    • 1995
      • 16,477,000 children living with a single mother (23.45% of all children under 18 in 1995)
    • 1996
      • 16,993,000 children living with a single mother (23.96% of all children under 18 in 1996)
    • 1997
      • 16,740,000 children living with a single mother (23.58% of all children under 18 in 1997)
    • 1998
      • 16,634,000 children living with a single mother (23.30% of all children under 18 in 1998)
    • 1999
      • 16,805,000 children living with a single mother (23.44% of all children under 18 in 1999)
    • 2000
      • 16,162,000 children living with a single mother (22.44% of all children under 18 in 2000)
    • 2001
      • 16,117,000 children living with a single mother (22.38% of all children under 18 in 2001)
    • 2002
      • 16,473,000 children living with a single mother (22.78% of all children under 18 in 2002)
    • 2003
      • 16,770,000 children living with a single mother (22.97% of all children under 18 in 2003)
    • 2004
      • 17,072,000 children living with a single mother (23.32% of all children under 18 in 2004)
    • 2005
      • 17,225,000 children living with a single mother (23.44% of all children under 18 in 2005)
    • 2006
      • 17,161,000 children living with a single mother (23.30% of all children under 18 in 2006)
    • 2007
      • 17,881,000 children living with a single mother (24.25% of all children under 18 in 2007)
    • 2008
      • 16,888,000 children living with a single mother (22.79% of all children under 18 in 2008)
    • 2009
      • 16,911,000 children living with a single mother (22.78% of all children under 18 in 2009)
    • 2010
      • 17,283,000 children living with a single mother (23.13% of all children under 18 in 2010)
    • 2011
      • 17,615,000 children living with a single mother (23.80% of all children under 18 in 2011)
    • 2012
      • 17,991,000 children living with a single mother (24.37% of all children under 18 in 2012)
    • 2013
      • 17,532,000 children living with a single mother (23.72% of all children under 18 in 2013)
    • 2014
      • 17,410,000 children living with a single mother (23.63% of all children under 18 in 2014)
    • 2015
      • 17,006,000 children living with a single mother (23.10% of all children under 18 in 2015)
    • 2016
      • 17,223,000 children living with a single mother (23.35% of all children under 18 in 2016)
    • 2017
      • 16,767,000 children living with a single mother (22.73% of all children under 18 in 2017)
    • 2018
      • 16,395,000 children living with a single mother (22.23% of all children under 18 in 2018)
    • 2019
      • 15,764,000 children living with a single mother (21.44% of all children under 18 in 2019)
    • 2020
      • 15,310,000 children living with a single mother (21.00% of all children under 18 in 2020)
    • 2021
      • 15,607,000 children living with a single mother (21.51% of all children under 18 in 2021)

Poverty Levels Among Single-Mother Families

Balancing a career and child is hard, but it can be nearly impossible without a partner. Even being slightly above the poverty level doesn’t mean that they can necessarily afford basic necessities or put money into savings. 

Here’s the data on poverty rates for single-mother families:

  • 6,233,000 single-mother families (71.12%) were at or above the poverty level in 2021. 2,531,000 (28.88%) were below the poverty level. (U.S. Census Bureau, 2022)2
  • 36.15% of children living with a single mother were at a 200% poverty level ($33,975 income per year for a household of 2) or higher in 2021. (U.S. Census Bureau, 2021a)1
  • 34.95% of children living with a single mother were below 100% poverty level ($18,310 income per year for a household of 2) in 2021. (U.S. Census Bureau, 2022)2
  • The poverty status of children living with single mothers broken down by whether or not the mother was in the labor force in 2021 is as follows: (U.S. Census Bureau, 2021a)1
    • Children with single mothers in the labor force:
      • Below 100% of poverty – 2,929,000 children with single mothers (24.80%)
      • 100% to 199% of poverty – 3,751,000 children with single mothers (31.76%)
      • 200% of poverty and above – 5,131,000 children with single mothers (43.44%)
    • Children with single mothers not in the labor force
      • Below 100% of poverty – 2,526,000 children with single mothers (66.54%)
      • 100% to 199% of poverty – 758,000 children with single mothers (19.97%)
      • 200% of poverty and above – 511,000 children with single mothers (13.46%)
    • All Children with single mothers
      • Below 100% of poverty – 5,455,000 children with single mothers (34.95%)
      • 100% to 199% of poverty – 4,509,000 children with single mothers (28.89%)
      • 200% of poverty and above – 5,642,000 children with single mothers (36

Access to Public Assistance/Food Stamps for Single-Mother Families

While social programs exist to help those in difficult situations better their lives, access to these programs can be limited or nonexistent. 

These statistics show how single families access social aid programs:

  • 45.49% of children living with a single mother (7,099,000 children) received food stamps in 2021. (U.S. Census Bureau, 2022)2
  • The numbers and percentages of children of single mothers who receive food stamps broken down by whether or not their mother is employed are as follows: (U.S. Census Bureau, 2022)2
    • Children with single mothers in the labor force:
      • Recipients of food stamps – 4,672,000 children (39.56%)
      • Not recipients of food stamps – 7,139,000 children (60.44%)
    • Children with single mothers not in the labor force:
      • Recipients of food stamps – 2,426,000 children (63.93%)
      • Not recipients of food stamps – 1,369,000 children (36.07%)
    • All children with single mothers:
      • Recipients of food stamps – 7,099,000 children (45.48%)
      • Not recipients of food stamps – 8,508,000 children (54.51%)
  • 7.30% of children with single mothers (1,140,000 children) received public assistance (cash, medical, food assistance, and/or childcare) in 2021. The remaining 14,468,000 children did not have access to public assistance. (U.S. Census Bureau, 2022)2
  • The numbers and percentages of children with single mothers who received public assistance, based on whether or not their mother was employed, are as follows: (U.S. Census Bureau, 2022)2
    • Children with single mothers in the labor force:
      • Recipients of public assistance – 591,000 children (5%)
      • Not recipients of public assistance – 11,221,000 children (95.00%) 
    • Children with single mothers not in the labor force:
      • Recipients of public assistance – 549,000 children (14.46%)
      • Not recipients of public assistance – 3,247,000 children (85.54%)
    • All children with single mothers:
      • Recipients of public assistance – 1,140,000 children (7.30%)
      • Not recipients of public assistance – 14,468,000 children (92.30%)

Health Care in Single-Mother Families

Privatized health care is a substantial cost for well-off families, but single mothers may not have the financial stability to pay for it. Even with insurance, out-of-pocket costs can be too much. 

These data points show how single-mother parenthood affects healthcare for children:

  • Compared to other children, children of single mothers were: (Health Services Research, 2002)11
    • Just as likely to have seen a physician in the past year
    • Slightly more likely to have no usual source of health care
    • More likely to have an unmet health care need
  • About 35% of children of single-parent families have employer-sponsored health insurance, and about 47% have Medicaid coverage. For children of two-parent families, these percentages are 71% and 10%, respectively (Health Services Research, 2002)11

Negative Effects of Single-Mother Parenthood on Children

Even if a single mother does everything she can, having an absent parent can take a serious psychological toll on a child. 

These data points show how having an absent father affects children:

  • The absence of a father could be an underlying cause of social issues facing African-American men, such as drugs, poverty, crime, and being absent from their own children. (University of Missouri, St. Louis, 2021)12
  • An absent father can cause sons to experience anger, resentment, financial issues, and stress. (University of Missouri, St. Louis, 2021)12
  • Fatherless sons are often rebellious and disrespectful toward authority. (University of Missouri, St. Louis, 2021)12
  • Fatherless sons who experience anger and resentment often get in fights, lash out, or engage in other aggressive behaviors. (University of Missouri, St. Louis, 2021)12
  • Children with absentee fathers are: (The Village Voice, 2002)13
    • 5 times more likely to commit suicide. 
    • 9 times more likely to drop out of high school.
    • 10 times more likely to abuse chemical substances. 
    • 14 times more likely to commit rape.
    • 20 times more likely to end up in prison.
    • 32 times more likely to run away from home. 

Conclusion

Single mothers are often in a difficult situation where they struggle to have enough time to both work and parent their children. The number of single mothers in the U.S. has been increasing for decades, but access to social aid programs still appears to be limited. 

A large percentage of single mothers and their children live at or below the poverty line. As a result, these children are significantly more likely to have unmet healthcare needs due to inadequate finances. They’re also more likely to commit suicide, commit crimes, or drop out of high school.  

Social opinions on single mothers have been traditionally negative but are improving. Unfortunately, as with many demographics who face unique challenges, single mothers have been targeted by a victim-blaming attitude that limits the aid they receive and hurts their ability to improve their quality of life. 

As society’s views on single mothers have evolved more positively, there has also been an increase in single mothers who attend college. The median income for single mothers has been steadily increasing – though it is still far behind that of single fathers

While not every single mother is struggling, many of them and their children are. As society views them more empathetically, the data shows slight and steady improvements in their opportunities and quality of life – but there’s still a lot of room for improvement. 


Footnotes

  1. U.S. Census Bureau, 2021a. A report on families and living arrangements in the U.S. using 2021 census data from 60,000 American households.
  2. U.S. Census Bureau, 2022. A report on single parents in the U.S. that analyzes 2021 census data from 98,000 American households.
  3. Fathering, 2006. A study of 9,607 American respondents on the stigma and double standards surrounding parenthood conducted in 2006 and published in Fathering: A Journal of Theory, Research, and Practice about Mes as Fathers.
  4. Institute of Labor Economics, 2020. An academic article on how schools view single parents that uses data from a study of 769 Americans, among other sources.
  5. Pew Research Center, 2018. A report on the changing profile of unmarried parents that uses data from a 2015 survey of 21,224 American adults.
  6. National Bureau of Economic Research, 2006. A research article on the relationships between education level and health utilizing data from a variety of studies.
  7. Institute for Women’s Policy Research, 2020. A report on the rate of single mothers who attend college as well as the benefits of doing so.
  8. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2022. A report on the employment characteristics of families in 2020 citing data from a survey of 60,000 American households and published by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
  9. U.S. Census Bureau, 2019. A report on social characteristics in the U.S. with 5-year estimate data from 2,059,945 households in 2019.
  10. U.S. Census Bureau, 2021b. A series of reports on the living arrangements of children in the U.S. over the past several decades, most recently using data from 98,000 American households.
  11. Health Services Research, 2002. A study on the relationship between family structure, socioeconomic status, and healthcare access for children utilizing data from National Health Interview Surveys of 63,054 children in 1993-1995.
  12. University of Missouri, St. Louis, 2021. A study on the effects of an absent father on 8 African-American fatherless sons.
  13. The Village Voice, 2002. An article on the impact of a father on children that utilizes a variety of data from the CDC, U.S. Census Bureau, Department of Justice, and other sources.
Dainis Graveris

Dainis Graveris

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