Economic Patterns of Single Mothers Following Their Poverty Exits - Research Brief. Introduction


With the passage of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (PRWORA), policymakers have placed an increased emphasis on employment and earnings as a key way out of poverty and dependency for single mothers. Several studies have looked at the labor force transitions of former welfare recipients. However, fewer studies have focused on earnings and income progression, poverty dynamics, and the pathways out of poverty for single mothers more generally.

As more single mothers move off the welfare rolls, or never enter welfare, it is important to discern their prospects for long-term self-sufficiency. To learn more about the extent to which single mothers remain out of poverty and the factors most strongly associated with their continued economic progress, the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE) contracted with Mathematica Policy Research, Inc. (MPR) to examine the income and employment experiences of a nationally representative sample of single mothers who exited poverty.

The research was based on data from the 2001 panel of the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP), which provides longitudinal data from late 2000 through 2003. The study identified single mothers who exited poverty during 2001, and tracked their experiences over the following two-year period.

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