Work Histories and Employment Outcomes of Single Mothers. Data and Study Sample


For this study we pool data from the 1997 and 1998 Current Population Survey (CPS) Annual Social and Economic Supplement (ASEC) and link it to longitudinal earnings and employment information from 1991 to 2002 drawn from the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) Detailed Earnings Records (DER).  The resulting integrated dataset yields the capacity to track the employment and earnings progression of individual single mothers over a total period spanning more than 10 years.[1]

The main study sample is comprised of single mothers ages 16 to 64[2] and we conduct much of our analysis on the subset of single mothers who were low-income in either 1996 or 1997 (depending on the year in which they were a respondent for the CPS).  We refer to 1996 or 1997 as the “base year” for the study and examine employment and earnings experiences over the subsequent five-year outcome period ending in either 2001 or 2002.  Also, our analyses include “historical” employment and earnings information for the six-year period prior to the base year for all sample members.  The samples we analyze in the study are as follows:

  • Single Mothers: Divorced, separated, never-married, or widowed women residing with at least one of their own children under the age of 18 at the time of the survey and women who head a female-headed household that contains a related child under 18 when the mother of that child is not present in the household at the time of the survey (7,279 in sample)
  • Low-Income Single Mothers: Single mothers in the two bottom income quintiles of the sample at the time of the survey[3] (2,998 in sample)
  • All Women: All women ages 16 to 64 at the time of the survey[4] (48,629 in sample)

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