The Poverty Faced by the Single-Parent Families


In the United States, the families which had a single parent are ascending in number. According to the US Bureau of census, 1989a, there were more than 25 percent of the American families are single- parent families and professionals have anticipated that the children who was born in the 1980s have a 50 percent probability of living in a single- parent family before reaching the age 18. With a small number of exceptions, much of the extensive writings on the single- parent families have focused on the struggles faced by such families and the degree to which a particular family might be not enough in child rearing upbringing (Blau P, 1967). But a more crucial topic is determined in this paper and that is about the poverty which is faced by the single- parent families in the society and applying the theories constituted by the neoclassical, institutional and Marxism.

It has been 25 years since an economist first pointed out what is without difficulty, the greatest argue against the social policy in the twentieth century: the development of interests’ entitlements as part of the confrontation on poverty has actually ascended the economic susceptibility of those it was anticipated to help, namely single mothers and children. While this approach has been given with the ground-breaking welfare reforms of the mid 1990s that brought paucity and enslavement down to record lows, many of today’s social reformers continue to get the wrong impression the relationship between family status poverty and welfare (Aycan, 2000).

No one has suffered more for this misinterpretation than single parents and children. By 1996, poverty rates among single- parent families in the US reached 41.9 percent over 30 percent higher than that of married couple families. While low income rates have dropped since then, the gap in the income between twp groups has remained large. What are more upsetting; single parents are much more likely to experience low- incomes over the long term. According to one study, 2.5 percent of two parent families experienced low- income for six continuous years between 1993 and 1998, while 19.4 percent of matrimonial parent families experienced low income. Single parents are also more likely to become dependent on welfare in the long- term.

This unwelcoming vision for single mothers prompted a US public affairs columnist to recommend that “marriage is displacing both income and race as the great class divide in the new century”. Indeed, following a line of investigation shows that the growth of single parent families accounts for virtually all the increase in the US child poverty rates between the 1970s and 1990s. Children growing up in single parent families are four times as likely to be poor than are those from two- parent families. Today, almost two thirds of all poor children are in single- parent homes. Growing up in single- parent families also has negative effects on the social and profitable outcomes of children (Aycan, 2000).

Understanding the situation among the one- parent families comprises the social and economic standing of each. Poverty is one of the biggest issues when it comes to the social issues about the family relations. It is said that poverty prevails among the one- parent families worldwide and determines how the breadwinners in the family struggles a lot when it comes to the labor and market issues. Poverty among single- parent families is more extensive than on those families who have two- parent families.


There is a big deal when it comes to analysing the poverty among the single- parent families using the neoclassical theory. In the neoclassical speculation, the economists determine the labor market as a segmented society and gives different factors which has something to do with the race, sexism, educational background and the kinds of jobs that a certain person may be able to perform. Looking into the point of single- parent families especially the one- parent family who has the mother as the sole parent, the women struggle a lot because parity prevails on getting a job and the employers prefer to hire men than women. Single mothers will be more likely to choose secondary jobs which have low salary, do not have job ladders or does not have any promotions from a position to a higher position where you can get a salary increase. Another thing is that, single mothers who opted to work for a secondary job has the lesser chance, of course, to meet the specific income suitable for the family. Primary jobs were given more on the side of men and with that in mind, poverty occurs less on the families dominated by men because they got the higher salary than the single mothers.

In addition, the neoclassical theory proposes that specialization points to women as stay-at-home wife while men work in the labor force to help family to maximize utility, consumption, well-being, among others. It insists that women are better in doing housework and childcare while men are better in working in the labor force, of specialized or concentrated in doing one thing. Through this, they can exchange their goods and services in a manner called joint consumption. The neoclassical theory also encompassed comparative advantage, that men specialize in the labor force and women specialize in the housework maximizing their well-being. This is where gender division of labor come in criticized by feminists pointing out neoclassical analysis is only good for short-term and disregards about the possibility of death, divorce, separation, and that kids grow up. If women only specialize in the housework, they cannot get a higher-paying job when they enter the labor force because they do not have any skills and experience. Besides paying for childcare, they have low income to support their family. Accordingly, women are expected to specialize in home production and they have to take time out of work and invest less in things that make them more productive at work. This theory also explains why women are less productive than men because they do a bulk of unpaid work. Women concentrate in the low-paying job (or women’s jobs) because they do not have any skills. They avoid paying too much of tuition cost.

Another determinant of poverty using the neoclassical analysis is the education of the parents. Gentlemen are highly educated than the women and realise to have the economic security than women. Single mothers are much more likely to have less than a full high school education, whereas the two- parent families are more likely into the college level of education. But despite the substantial differences between the educational profiles of parents in one parent and two- parent families the dissimilarities would be greater if it were not for the factor of differential remarriages.

The greater likelihood that a single father than single mothers of young children are in the work force is another way that the former are economically better situated than the latter. Since single mothers more often than not spend more time than fathers with the kids, information is very much important about how the single mothers divide their time inside the home and outside for the work. The fact is that the rate of working women is rising and the rate of birth is declining and the level of education is now getting into the higher level.

Furthermore, individualism is one big cause of poverty among single- parent families indeed because the potential and skills of one person is measured before getting into the job that they want and commonly, women are degraded in this issue. The employers are very keen when it comes to the different labor market characteristics and behavioral rules. Try to picture out a scenario where a couple has separated and the single- mother became the sole guardian of the children and the father was originally the one who was working in the family. Of course in this case, the mother would seek a job in order to sustain the life of the family but some companies do not hire a person who was not in one company for a preferred period. Thus, the single mothers are down in this issue for a fact that labor market segmentation in almost all factors goes to the favor of men and proletarian jobs goes to single mothers.

In the Institutional analysis, there were four core concepts according to the view of the institutionalists to help understand the poverty among single- parent families. The first one is the behavioral pattern on the society or the preferences when it comes to work that has something to do with the culture. Having the concept of the culture as the standard pattern to be the center of choosing different things in the society matters a lot for the families who have single mothers as the sole parent. Institutions set an emphasis when it comes to the race and gender classification of people especially in getting a job. Women do understand that in the society, preferences for the skills of men prevails a lot more than the power of the women. The institutional economics which comprises the ethnographical, historical and statistical gives way to the women to know the role and right for a particular moment. The feminists believe that the women play an important role in the stipulation of the economy and that woman now understand that working outside has changed the family and the role of the women specifically in the manner of working. Poverty arises in the institutional economy because the society still views women as secondary to men only. Women are empowered and they could perform reforms when it comes to the labor issues but still the power of working men dominates the labor market. Thus, poverty among single mothers is typical. Labor segmentation has affected job ladder in companies. Every company has job ladder where people can climb up to the top. Single parents are more vulnerable because they always quit their jobs to take care their children, or jobs do not have a promotion. When they cannot earn enough, they are more likely to find another job. If they continue to find other jobs, they always start at entry level in the labor force.

Capitalism depicts on the Marxism analysation of the poverty among the single- parent families. It is said that people gets profits because of the labor force while paying for the compensation of the people, and getting higher profits than the labor force exerted. According to Engels, the value of women in the society oppresses by the patriarchal control and makes women as a private ownership. Another point in the Marxist view, it was assumed that women will be drawn out of the labor force because men are paid much higher than them. The skills of women are not given that value as to what men are getting from the work. Marxism explains why single-parents especially single mothers come to a struggling point of poverty because of materialist methodology where in the belief that the makeup of society and human relations are the result of material state of affairs and situation rather than the ideas and realisation (Brus, 1989). Some of the employers do not give values to those employees who have not been with the company for a long time. It means that, if a company has not invested on an individual for the labor force that may contribute for the profit maximisation, the company will tend to block or not give the benefits for the family of the employee such as the educational support for the children, some health benefits, and the like. Consequently, single-parents who face the difficulties of transferring into more high paying jobs are probably not possible and it appears to be seldom. In the Marxist and neo- Marxist analysation, it somehow again conveyed the issue about the gender discrimination. The men always get the bigger opportunities than women and apparently neglect the potentials which a woman can do.

It was seen that the technical skills are the major things needed in order to achieve the wealthy living for a single- parent families who has the mother as the sole parent. As luck would have it, woman will be viewed as a worker at home and not suitable for the jobs outside and battle out in the society. Primarily, the discussions about the labor market segmentation are the cause why poverty becomes widespread on the one-parent families who has the mother as the breadwinner for the family.


Single-parent families are more likely to be poor when it is ruled by a woman who indeed acts as the single parent. It is also viewed as unfair that in the labor force, the value of women in the society is not given enough recognition. Likewise, the value of women at home is not counted as a contribution to the progression of the economy. An example is gambling as compared a passionate job of taking care one’s family. Gambling appears to be more valuable to the economy than the hard work of the women at home. Technically, one should acquire a high- end educational background to get the job which one is dreaming for and apparently live a wealthy life which everyone craves. But, in the theories mentioned above, it seems like no matter how fully educated the single mother would be, still the man dominates the market for the labor force. It is not a matter of how well you know or how excellent you may be when it comes to the working process. What really matter is how large the production you may have or the capacity of one person to contribute in the profit maximisation for the economy as Blau (1981) proposed.

To sum up the factors which constitute poverty among the single- parent families, it would largely appear to be the discrimination among women and the way the society view the value that can be produced for the sake of the progress or development of the economy. However, feminists argue in this way of viewing women as not essential to the large production and the way people classify the skills of men from women. The feminists agree though that in the new world of innovation, profit maximisation is the main factor to consider when measuring the ability and capacity of a person, however, it is not right to give the bigger chances or opportunities in men. Furthermore, not only the labor force should be credited as a work as having the value but also the things that a woman can do for her family. The work outside should not be the basis of every thing and so as to neglect the power of a woman to do the jobs where she will be able to express herself, contribute for the development of the economy, make use of her educational knowledge which could be appropriate for the job so that the poverty in the single-parent families will be properly addressed.


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