Trends in the Well-Being of America's Children and Youth, 1997. ES 3.3 Parental labor force detachment

04/01/1997

Attachment to the labor force is, for the vast majority of families, a necessary prerequisite for financial and social stability. Children who have no parents in the labor force are at considerably higher risk of poverty, which can have long-term negative consequences for their well-being.23,24

Figure ES 3.3 presents trends in the proportion of children living in families where there were no resident parents attached to the labor force. Data are presented for 1985, 1990, and 1994 through 1996, by family type, age of child, and race/ethnicity. During that period, approximately one in 10 children lived in families in which all resident parents were detached from the labor force. The percentages fluctuated within a narrow range throughout the period.

Labor Force Detachment by Family Type and Age of Child. The rate of parental labor force detachment for children in married couple families was very low, fluctuating between 2 and 3 percent between 1985 and 1996. However, detachment rates for children in families headed by single mothers were more than ten times higher throughout the period. In 1985, 39 percent of children living in single-mother families had a nonworking mother (see Figure ES 3.3). This percentage dropped to 34 percent by 1996. For children under age 6 in single-mother families, the reduction was somewhat larger, from 51 percent in 1985 to 44 percent in 1996 (see Table ES 3.3).

In families headed by single mothers, mothers of children under age six were more likely to be detached from the labor force than mothers of older children. The gap between the two age groups has narrowed over time, however, decreasing from 26 percentage points in 1985 (59 percent versus 33 percent) to 16 percentage points in 1996 (44 percent versus 28 percent). Children living in families headed by single fathers experienced parental labor force detachment rates between 11 and 14 percent during this time period. This is substantially less than rates experienced by children in families headed by single mothers (12 percent versus 34 percent in 1996), but substantially higher than those in married-couple families (2 percent).

Labor Force Detachment by Race and Ethnicity. White children were much less likely than black or Hispanic children to have no resident parents in the labor force in 1996, with rates of 7 percent, 25 percent, and 17 percent, respectively.
 

Figure ES 3.3 
Parental Labor Force Detatchment: Percentage of Children with No Resident Parent in the Labor Force, 1985-1996 

FIGES3_3.GIF
Sources: 1985, 1990, 1994, and 1995 statistics calculated by Child Trends, Inc., based on analyses of the March 1985, 1990, 1994, and 1995 Current Population Surveys. 1996 statistics calculated by the U.S. Bureau of the Census based on the 1996 Current Population Survey. 

 

Table ES 3.3  
Parental Labor Force Detachment: Percentage of Children With No Resident Parent in the Labor Force, 1985-1986

 
 
1985 
1990 
1994 
1995 
1996 
______ 
______ 
______ 
______ 
______ 
All children  
11 
10 
12 
11 
11 
  < age 6  
12 
13 
14 
14 
13 
  age 6-17  
10 
9 
11 
10 
9 
 
Family type
  Married-couple  
3 
2 
3 
3 
2 
    < age 6  
    age 6-17  
                 
  Single-mother  
39 
37 
38 
36 
34 
    < age 6  
51 
49 
48 
46 
44 
    age 6-17  
33 
30 
32 
31 
28 
                 
  Single-father  
11 
12 
14 
12 
12 
    < age 6  
10 
10 
15 
14 
14 
    age 6-17  
11 
12 
14 
12 
11 
                 
Race/ethnicity group
  White  
8 
7 
9 
8 
7 
    < age 6  
11 
10 
    age 6-17  
                 
  Black  
27 
26 
27 
27 
25 
    < age 6  
33 
34 
33 
33 
32 
    age 6-17  
24 
21 
24 
23 
21 
                 
  Hispanic  
19 
17 
19 
19 
17 
    < age 6  
20 
19 
22 
21 
20 
    age 6-17  
19 
16 
18 
17 
15 
 
 
Sources: 1985, 1990, 1994 and 1995 statistics calculated by Child Trends, Inc., based on analyses of the March 1985, 1990, 1994, and 1995 Current Population Surveys. 1996 statistics calculated by the U.S. Bureau of the Census based on the 1996 Current Population Survey.

 

23 Blau, F., and Grossberg, A. 1992. "Maternal Labor Supply and Children's Cognitive Development, "Review of Economics and Statistics.

24 Duncan, G., and Brooks-Gunn, J. 1996. "Income Effects Across the Life Span: Integration and Interpretation," in Consequences of Growing Up Poor (G. Duncan and J. Brooks-Gunn, eds.).
 

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