Single Mothers in Poverty

Topics: Poverty, Poverty threshold, Sociology Pages: 6 (1811 words) Published: October 21, 2012
Single Mothers in Poverty
Midterm Essay 1

After doing the exercise of creating a budget for a single mother with two kids who is trying to “make ends meet” on a minimum-wage job, I have come to have so much compassion for those struggling with this dilemma. The odds are highly against a poor woman trying to do her best raising her children on a low-income job, some might even say that it would be impossible to do alone. The hurdles of expensive daycare, the rising cost of housing, the low-availability of welfare for women already working, the demanding natures of jobs which don’t allow for paid medical leave, and the skyrocketing costs of health care, all contribute to the poverty of single mothers. While I was taking a deeper look into this problem, it became abundantly clear to me that this is definitely a big “public issue” that needs to be addressed from a social policy standpoint. One of the biggest issues facing America today is poverty. One of the single most contributing factors of poverty is single-parent (namely single mother) households. Certainly it’s easy to look at individual families like these and see a string of individual choices. Yet, it goes far beyond “personal trouble” and is definitely considered to be a “public issue” (a “public crisis” one might say). As Mills sates in The Sociological Imagination, “Perhaps the most fruitful distinction with which the sociological imagination works is between 'the personal troubles of milieu' and 'the public issues of social structure’” (Mills, pg. 2). Let’s zoom out and look at the bigger picture here. “The poverty rate among children is higher in the United States than in most other major Western industrialized nations” (Leon-Guerrero, pg. 44). When looking at the single mothers who raise these children, the poverty rate in the U.S. for these women is far above the average in other high income countries, even though the single mother employment rate in the U.S. is also above the average. Less generous income support programs in the U.S. help explain the exceptionally high poverty rate for single mother families in the U.S ( This clearly demonstrates the legitimacy of this being a public issue. It’s true that more and more children are growing up in single parent households, and many of these families struggle to get by. In fact, “…children are more likely to live in poverty than Americans in any other age group” (Leon-Guerrero, pg. 44). But that’s not an accident of poor choices: while single parenthood has been skyrocketing, we’ve also been paring back the supports that could help these families stay afloat. Single mothers have an especially hard time getting out of poverty. Households headed by single mothers are four times as likely to be poor as are families headed by married couples (Leon-Guerrero, pg.46). Not only that, but, “Single-parent families are more vulnerable to poverty because there is only one adult income earner, and female heads of household are disadvantaged even further because women in general make less money than men do” (Leon-Guerrero, pg. 46). In fact, “Families with a female householder and no spouse present were more likely to be poor than families with a male householder and no spouse present, 28.7% versus 13.8%” (Leon-Guerrero, pg. 45). And because the majority of single-parent households are headed by single-mothers, this inevitably increases the rate of poverty nationwide. Most of these mothers live in relative poverty, which refers to, “…a situation in which some people fail to achieve the average income or lifestyle enjoyed by the rest of society” (Leon-Guerrero, pg. 40). Take childcare for instance; the high cost of taking care of one’s child is crippling to a single mother making minimum wage and almost immediately plummets her into relative poverty. On average, a poor mother spends 32 percent of her total weekly income on child care. This percentage nearly...
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