Work Histories and Employment Outcomes of Single Mothers. The Characteristics of Single Mothers


Exhibit 1 displays select demographic characteristics for low-income single mothers, all single mothers, and the broader group of all women during the base year of the study.  Single mothers tended to be younger, were more likely to be black, and had lower levels of educational attainment relative to all women.  Single mothers, especially low-income single mothers, also were more likely to be poor and less likely to be covered by health insurance than women overall, and low-income single mothers were more likely than other women to report health or disability problems.  Single mothers on average had a somewhat higher rate of employment than all women in the base year, but the subset of single mothers who were low-income had a much lower employment rate than the other two groups.  Employed single mothers on average had lower earnings in the base year[5] than all women ($17,592 compared to $22,676).  This was especially pronounced among working single mothers with low incomes who had average earnings of $9,673 during the base year of the study.


Exhibit 1
Characteristics of Single Mothers in Base Year (1996 or 1997)
Characteristic Low-Income
Single Mothers
All Single Mothers All Women
   16-24 21% 20% 9%
   25-34 36% 31% 25%
   35-44 30% 33% 28%
   45-64 13% 17% 38%
   White 65% 71% 85%
   Black 30% 24% 10%
   Other 5% 5% 5%
   Less than HS Graduate 39% 24% 15%
   HS Graduate 58% 65% 61%
   Bachelor's Degree 3% 10% 23%
   Postgraduate Degree 0% 0% 1%
   Income Below Poverty Level 88% 38% 14%
   Health or Disability Problem 14% 9% 9%
   No Health Insurance (self) 29% 25% 17%
Labor Market
   Employment 61% 77% 74%
   Earnings (1998 dollars) $9,673 $17,592 $22,676
Number in Sample 2,998 7,279 48,629
Source:  Calculations for age, race, education, poverty, and health characteristics are based on the 1997 and 1998
Annual Social and Economic Supplement of the Current Population Survey.
Calculations for employment and earnings are based on the Social Security Administration's Detailed Earnings Records.

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