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Children from single moms in poverty

Various studies show that anywhere from 30 to 40% of children from households that are run by single moms live in poverty as of the end of 2017. In order to fall into this classification, this would mean that their total household income is below the federal government guidelines that determine poverty levels based on income as well as household size.

The percentage of struggling children from single parent homes is much higher than two parent families. The poverty rates for children with both parents living at home hovers around 15%, so it is less than half that of homes that are run by single mothers. These states are from organizations including the NCCP – National Center for Children in Poverty as well as Childtrends.org among others.

Children from homes with single mothers

The problem is a major one for this country, whether you use the 30 or 40 percentage figure. The exact percent, depending on the source of the data used, doesn’t matter as both numbers are way too high. And the problem is getting much worse over time, as the Censure Bureau reports that the percentage of children living only with their mom increased from 8% to 23% from 1960 to 2016. This is a 300% increase, which is incredible, and it is equivalent to about 20 million kids living only with their mom. This would mean 6-8 million children live in poverty if they have single mothers.

My father was absent for a good portion of my life, and he left for good during my early teenage years. While he “officially” left when I was 13, he was very often “absent” for many years prior to that due to being an alcoholic. So he was in and out of my life even before I was 13. While many kids did have it worse than me, I had a taste of what it was like to be raised by a single mother, as my mom in effect raised me after 13, and even prior to that raised me and my siblings without much (if any) help from my dad.

The National Center for Children in Poverty indicates that maybe the most pressing need of single moms is child care. As they struggle to work outside the home while ensuring their kid is taken care of during the day. It is terribly expensive to pay for day care, and when adding that child care cost to other basic living expenses (rent/housing, food, utilities, transportation, etc.) it is usually too much for one parent to tackle.

Finding someone, or paying for day care is always a challenge…whether for a 2 or 1 parent home. In my case, I did have some older siblings for a period of time to help out. As they left and went off on their own though, I was often on my own. But as my sister aged, I was able to help care for my younger sister and served as her “quasi” day and after school care for her. But many single mother run households may not have that benefit, and they have no alternative other than paying for a day care provider.

Per Childtrends, the Censure Bureau, and other data points, the stats on single mother households show their struggles. During 2017 about 30% were food insecure, meaning they are not always sure where their next meal will come from. About 15% are on TANF cash assistance, and about 18% receive unemployment. Many single moms need help with their rent payments, with the cost of housing being a major barrier. All of these stats are more than double the national average.

When growing up, my mom (who was a teacher prior to having 6 kids) had to re-enter the workforce. But she had been away from teaching for so long, she was not able to get into that field again and had to enter the social services field. This is another challenge from single mother run households; if they stepped away from the workforce for a period of time to raise their kid, it is hard to get back into it. If they can, they often struggle to find child care that is affordable and safe as indicated. So single mother run households struggle on that aspect of work, and that in itself could lead to poverty. Or hinder them as they try to break free of it.

Too many children in general, and in particular those from single mother households are in poverty. We hope this trend can reverse itself over time, and maybe some of the government programs (example to increase child care credits) help break this trend.


Jon McNamara is the CEO of needhelppayingbills.com, a company that he started in 2008 and that specializes in helping low income families as well as those who are in a financial hardship. He also found NHPB LLC, a company committed to helping the less fortunate. Jon and his team also provide free financial advice to help people learn about as well as manage their money. Every piece of content on this website has been reviewed by him before publishing and many of the articles he has personally written. Jon is the leading author for needhelppayingbils.

3 thoughts on “Children from single moms in poverty

  • March 10, 2019 at 8:46 am

    Men are like stockings – No matter how well you take care of them they eventually run on you.

  • May 9, 2019 at 5:41 pm

    I am a single mom of the best 9 year old kiddo around. I am employed, however not making ends meet at the moment and meet poverty guidelines. I rent my home and currently my electric and natural gas are set to be turned off if I am unable to pay them. That’s what I need help with, also clothing for my son and food boxes. So hard to make ends meet on my own without more support.
    Any and all information on poverty assistance is greatly appreciated, especially this time of year.
    Thank you in advance,


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