Single Parents
 
Estimated Number of Printed Pages: 14
 
TOPICS COVERED: Single parenting is a strain in every direction. On a good day, you can fret about being “untraditional” and worry whether your children’s lives might be better; on a bad day, you come face to face with the brutal economics of being both the provider and the nurturer, and you worry whether your children will eat tonight, or who will watch them when work requires you to stay late unexpectedly.

But when single parenting gets reported, distinctions are rarely made between being truly all by yourself, or co-parenting with an ex, or being unmarried but living with someone, or being unmarried but in a steady relationship. These distinctions shake out quite differently the world around.
 
MEMOS ON RELATED INFORMATION: Single Parents (analysis), Marital Status, Unmarried Partners, Delaying Marriage, Stepfamilies, Birth Rate / Fertility / Family Size
 
Links to Sources for this material are available below. Please also see The Factbook Sources page for further information regarding Factbook sources and their availability.
 
 

PAGE INDEX:

 

SINGLE PARENT FAMILIES – DEMOGRAPHICS

SINGLE PARENT FAMILY – EFFECTS AND ECONOMICS

 
 
 
 

SINGLE PARENT FAMILIES – DEMOGRAPHICS

 
 
 
" [S]ociological studies show that, at least in some [Western European] countries . . . single motherhood is only a temporary, transitional stage in the union formation. Many unmarried mothers, in other words, are not necessarily to be considered as lone parents. Single motherhood by choice, more particularly among older, better-educated, working women, also seems to be on the rise . . . , but this phenomenon is not yet well documented. Contrary to all the former categories of one-parent families, widowed lone-parent families are, as a result of decreases in mortality, strongly declining." 1.
 
 
 
"As the divorce rate soared after 1960, three other major trends started to emerge that were part of the 20th century's transformation in pair-bonding in the Western world: the rate of marriage decreased, while the rates of cohabitation without marriage and nonmarital births increased . . . . This nonmarital birthrate increase is particularly impressive because it occurred at the same time that women in the West had more contraceptive choice than ever before in the history of the human species." 2.
 
 
 
26 percent
of U.S. children under the age of 18 lived in a single-parent home. 3.
 
 
 
In the U.S. and Western Europe, "It is likely that the frequency of one-parent families, at least as a transitional family stage in the life course, will increase or remain high. These families are highly vulnerable, since most are headed by women, whose social position is still relatively weaker than that of men. These women have to cope with the existing incompatibilities between gainful employment and family life, especially child care." 4.
 
 
 
12 percent
of U.S. children in single parent families with householders who had at least a bachelor’s degree, compared with 9 percent of children living with neither parent and 30 percent of children living in a married-couple family. 5.
 
 
 
U.S. Hispanic Female-Householders –

Between 1850 and 1880, between 25 and 38 percent of Spanish-surnamed households in Los Angeles, California, Santa Fe, New Mexico, and Tucson, Arizona were headed by women – when just four to nine percent of White Non-Hispanic households had a female head. This was due to a high mortality rate for Mexican-American men – twice that of women. 6.
 
In 2000, 17.3 percent of Hispanic households had a female head, compared to 11.8 percent of the total population. 7.
 
 
 
4.4 million
Number of U.S. male-maintained family households with no wife present: that’s 4.2 percent all households. 8.
 
 
 
19.2 percent
of American children live with single mothers in 2002, down from 21.5 percent in 1997. 9.
 
 
 
About 70 percent
of American single mothers were employed in March and April 2003, down from nearly 75 percent at the end of 2000. 10.
 
 
 
12 percent
of U.S. family households are female-maintained with no husband present. That hasn't changed for the past 15 years. 11.
 
 
 
Four percent
of U.S. family households are male-maintained with no wife present – a one percent increase since 1990. 12.
 
 
 
From 1970 to 2000, both the number of male-maintained family households and female-maintained family households both with no spouse present increased, but the number of single-mother households was more than double that of male-headed single parent households. 13.
 
 
 
28 percent
of British families with children were lone parent families in 2004. 14.
 
 
 
One in four
U.K. children lived in lone-parent families in 2004. That is more than triple the percent in 1972, when just one in 17 children lived in a lone-parent family. 15.
 
 
 
Over 40 percent
of families with kids in areas of London are lone parent families -- double the UK average. 16.
 
 
 
13 percent
of all British families were lone-parent families in 2002, compared to British-Caribbean households of which were 42 percent were lone-parent, British Indians’s 9 percent , British Pakistanis’ 12 percent , and British Bangladeshis’ 13 percent. 17.
 
 
 
In the U.K., in 2001, it became legal to register unmarried men as fathers of their children. Registration gives these men full responsibility as parents – the right to be involved in decisions about the child’s education, health and living arrangements. 18.
 
 
 
Nine percent
of all lone mothers in Britain between 1991-1993 continued to live with their parents. 16 percent of never-married mothers continued to live with their parents. 19.
 
 
 
30 percent
of all Spanish lone mothers with children under age 18 lived with their own mothers in 1991, as did slightly less than half of all mothers with children under six. 20.
 
 
 
14 percent
of all Australian families in 2003 were one parent families (799,800). 21.
 
 
 
19.9 percent
of Australian Children under 15 were living in single-parent homes in 2003. 22.
 
 
 
53 percent
The increase in the number of one-parent families in Australia from 1986 and 2001. That is over 14 times the growth in the number of couple families with children (which increased by just three percent.). 23.
 
 
 
2.5 percent
of Australian families with children under 15 are headed by a single-father. 24.
 
 
 
19.3 percent
of Australian families with children under 15 are headed by a single-mother. 25.
 
 
 
14 percent
of all Australian families in 2003 who were one parent families (799,800). 26.
 
 
 
22 percent
of all Australian families with children aged 0-17 are one parent families. 27.
 
 
 
83 percent
of Australian lone parents in 2001 were female (635,100) compared to 17 percent male (127,500). 28.
 
 
 
31 percent
of babies born in Australia in 2001 were born to unmarried mothers. 29.
 
 
 
35 percent
of Australian lone parents of children aged 0-17 years, who reported that they had never married. 30.
 
 
 
10 percent
of households in the U.K. were single-parent families in 1998. 31.
 
 
 
10 percent
of Jewish Israeli households are single-parent families. 32.
 
 
 
11 percent
of households in Ireland contain single parents with children. 33.
 
 
 
22 percent
of households in South Africa were single-parent families in 1998. 34.
 
 
 
20 percent
of households in Sri Lanka are female-headed. That's the highest proportion of female-headed households in South Asia, "mainly due to the existing political unrest. Consequently a significant number of young widows have emerged as female heads of households. A note worthy feature of female headed households is that the majority are widowed women, and the average size of their households are comparatively small." 35.
 
 
 
44.7 percent
of households in Jamaica were female-headed in 2001. St. Lucia and Haiti had similar rates – 42.8 percent and 42.7 percent, respectively. 36.
 
 
 
10 percent
of households in Trinidad and Tobago are headed by single mothers. 37.
 
 
 
8.6 percent
of all families with children under 18 years of age in Spain were single parent families in 1990-1991. 38.
 
 
 
11.9 percent
of all families with children under 18 years of age in France were single parent families in 1990-1991. 39.
 
 
 
15.7 percent
of all families with children under 18 years of age in Germany were single parent families in 1990-1991. 40.
 
 
 
16.8 percent
of all families with children under 18 years of age in Canada were single parent families in 1990-1991. 41.
 
 
 
18.1 percent
of all families with children under 18 years of age in the Netherlands were single parent families in 1990-1991. 42.
 
 
 
22.3 percent
of all families with children under 18 years of age in Sweden were single parent families in 1990-1991. 43.
 
 
 
23.5 percent
of all families with children under 18 years of age in the United States were single parent families in 1990-1991. 44.
 
 
 

SINGLE PARENT FAMILIES – DEMOGRAPHICS

 
 
 

SINGLE PARENT FAMILY – EFFECTS AND ECONOMICS

 
 
 
 
Twice as likely
Children growing up in a single-parent family are twice as likely to have a child before the age of 20 than those raised in a two-parent family. 45.
 
 
 
One and a half times as likely
Children growing up in a single-parent family are one and a half times as likely to be out of school and out of work in their late teens and early 20s as those who grow up in a two-parent family. 46.
 
 
 
When single moms work evenings, only slightly more than 35 percent eat with their children at least five days a week. 47.
 
 
 
Children who live with only one parent or with a parent and stepparent, experience more disadvantages in terms of psychological functioning, behavioral problems, education, and health. 48.
 
 
 
It's five times as likely
for U.S. children in mother-only family groups to be in poverty as children living in married-couple family groups: 39 percent of children in mother-only groups are in poverty while eight percent of married-couple families are in poverty. 49.
 
 
 
53.3 percent
of U.S. mothers without present spouses (married without spouse, separated, divorced, widowed or never married ) are in the labor force. 50.
 
 
 
$25,500
is the median family income for U.S. female householders with no husband present. That is about half the income of all families and less than half of married-couple families. And, adjusting for inflation, it's also less than the median family income of married-couple families in 1969 ($39,800). 51.
 
 
55.4 percent
of U.S. families maintained by men without spouses are homeowners, compared with about half (49.6 percent) of those maintained by women without spouses." 52.
 
 
 
 
28.0 percent – 3.9 million –
of the households in the U.S. with a female-householder and no-husband present families are in poverty – compared to just 5.5 percent of married-couple families. 53.
 
 
 
More of them – and they're worse off –

While the number of single-mother families has grown dramatically, so has the gap between their incomes and those of married-couple families. "From 1969 to 1999, the income gap between [U.S.] families maintained by women with no husband present and married-couple families widened. During that time, [U.S.] families maintained by women with no husband present had a smaller percentage increase in median income (32 percent) than that of married-couple families (44 percent)." 54.
 
 
 
52.6 percent
of related U.S. children under six who live in families with female householders with no husband present were in poverty in 2004, about five times the rate of their counterparts in married couple families (10.1 percent). 55.
 
 
 
13.5 percent
of the households in the U.S. with a male-householder and no-wife present families in the U.S. are in poverty. That's much less than the rate for single mothers, but still more than twice the rate for married-couple families. 56.

 
 
59.2 percent
of U.S. children living with a single mother lived in poverty in 1994. 57.
 
 
 
16.7 percent
of U.S. children living with single parents lived in poverty in 1994. 58.
 
 
 
" . . . over half (63 percent) of all [U.K.] lone parents live in poverty. In fact, the government presents the increase in the number of these families, which has taken place over the past 20 years, as one of the major reasons for the growth in child poverty." 59.
 
 
 
63 percent
of U.K. lone parents live in poverty. The British government believes that the increase in single parent households over the past 20 years has been one of the major reasons for the growth in child poverty. 60.
 
 
 
45 percent
of poor children in the U.K. live in a one parent family. 61.
 
 
 
40.3 percent
of British children living with a single mother lived in poverty in 1995, compared to 17.5 percent of those living in a two-parent family. 62.
 
 
 
In the U.K., "data concerning household expenditure shows that the average weekly spending by lone parent families is less than half of the amount spent by two-parent households, and even lower than some pensioner couples. And, it seems that although they are more likely to spend a greater proportion of their income on food than higher income families, the actual amount is far less in real terms." 63.
 
 
 
14 percent
British households of single parent families had incomes that were below half-the average income. That is almost twice the rate of the total population (eight percent). 64.
 
 
 
47 percent
of British single mothers were employed in the mid 1990s. 65.
 
 
 
42 percent
of British single mothers were employed in the end of the 1970s. 66.
 
 
 
In the U.K., "the proportion of employed lone mothers actually fell between the end of the 1970s and the mid 1990s (from 47 percent to 42 percent ), and although there has been some increase more recently, the majority of these women still do not work outside the home." 67.
 
 
 
In the U.K., "researchers argued that the main ‘barrier’ to employment for mothers continues to be the lack of affordable, good quality childcare in the UK, and that this had a significant impact on their choices. Furthermore, a report from the Daycare Trust also highlighted how the cost and shortage of childcare restricts employment options for many women, and especially those from minority ethnic backgrounds, lone mothers, the less well qualified and mothers of disabled children." 68.
 
 
 
"In the ECHP [European Community Household Panel], the poverty line is considered to be 60 percent of the METI [household total mean income]. In Spain, 19 percent of all persons are below this line. However, the proportion is 33 percent among those living in a household formed by a single parent with dependent children, and 28 percent in those with two adults and three or more dependent children. If the incidence of poverty is close to average, the financial situation of Spanish households is well below the average for the countries studied in the ECHP, with 67 percent living in households with difficulties making ends meet – a proportion clearly higher than the average (49 percent ). Another 65 percent live in households unable to save regularly, also above average (59 percent ); and 38 percent live in households that cannot afford three or more basic necessities (average 21 percent )." 69.
 
 
 
In Greece, "single-parent families carry a greater burden in terms of income but not in terms of consumption, probably because of informal support networks." 70.
 
 
11 percent
of all households in Ireland consisted of lone parents with children in 1996. 71.
 
 
 
47 percent
of single Irish parents of children under five years old were employed in 2001. 72.
 
 
 
AUS$412
"The median weekly income of lone parents with children aged 0-17 years. . . less than half the income of parents in couple families with children ($1,167 per week). In 2003, 58 percent of lone parents received a government pension, benefit or allowance as their main source of income compared to 8 percent of couples with children aged 0-17 years." 73.
 
 
 
58 percent
of Australian lone parents received a government pension, benefit or allowance as their main source of income in 2003 – compared to eight percent of couples with children aged 0-17 years. 74.
 
 
 
Almost 50 percent
of single parents in Finland work. 75.
 
 
 
31.0 percent
of Russian children living with a single mother lived in poverty in 1995, compared to 26.0 percent of those living in a two-parent family. 76.
 
 
 
26.6 percent
of Israeli children living with a single mother lived in poverty in 1992, compared to 14.0 percent of those living in a two-parent family. 77.
 
 
 
25.4 percent
of French children living with a single mother lived in poverty in 1989, compared to 7.7 percent of those living in a two-parent family. 78.
 
 
 
 
" . . . Divorced in East and Southeastern Asia women with dependent children face serious constraints as single parents and as breadwinners particularly when they lack marketable skills that could secure them a job . . . . " 79.
 
 
 
15.2 percent
of Taiwanese children with a single mother lived in poverty in 1995, compared to just 5.1 percent of those living in a two-parent family. 80.
 
 
____________________________________________________
 
 
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12. Reneé Spraggins, We the People: Women and Men in the United States, Census 2000 Special Report, CENSR-20. U.S. Census Bureau, Washington, DC (2005), p. 8. Archived at: http://www.census.gov/prod/2005pubs/censr-20.pdf Table 55, "Parents and Children in Stay-At-Home Parent Family Groups:1995 to 2004,"________, Statistical Abstract of the United States: 2006 (125th Edition), U.S. Census Bureau, Washington, DC (2005)(p. 52) citing U.S. Census Bureau, Current Population Reports, P20-537, and earlier reports; and ‘‘America’s Families and Living Arrangements: 2004’’; published 29 June 2005; <http://www.census.gov/population/www/socdemo/hh-fam/cps2004.html>. Archived at: http://www.census.gov/prod/www/statistical-abstract.html
13. Reneé Spraggins, We the People: Women and Men in the United States, Census 2000 Special Report, CENSR-20. U.S. Census Bureau, Washington, DC (2005), p. 8. Archived at: http://www.census.gov/prod/2005pubs/censr-20.pdf
14. ________, "Geographic Distribution: London has most lone-parent families," National Statistics Online, National Statistics, United Kingdom (July 7, 2005). Accessed at: http://www.statistics.gov.uk/cci/nugget.asp?id=1166 on December 27, 2005.
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16. ________, "Geographic Distribution: London has most lone-parent families," National Statistics Online, National Statistics, United Kingdom (July 7, 2005). Accessed at: http://www.statistics.gov.uk/cci/nugget.asp?id=1166 on December 27, 2005.
17. Johannes Pflegerl, Synthesis, Immigration and Family Annual Seminar 2002, Austrian Institute for Family Studies, European Observatory on the Social Situation, Demography and Family Helsinki, Finland, p. 50 et seq. (2002), p. 52. Archived at: http://europa.eu.int/comm/employment_social/eoss/downloads/helsinki_synthesis02_en_de.pdf
18. Ceridwen Roberts, The Situation of Families in the UK, 1997-2002, European Observatory on Family Matters (2002), p. 12 (citation omitted). Archived at: http://europa.eu.int/comm/employment_social/eoss/downloads/gm_02_uk_roberts_en.pdf
19. David Sven Reher, "Family Ties in Western Europe: Persistent Contrasts," Population and Development Review (June 1, 1998)(citation omitted). Archived at: http://www.highbeam.com/library/doc3.asp?docid=1G1:21059915
20. David Sven Reher, "Family Ties in Western Europe: Persistent Contrasts," Population and Development Review (June 1, 1998). Archived at: http://www.highbeam.com/library/doc3.asp?docid=1G1:21059915
21. ________, "4442.0 Family Characteristics, Australia," Australian Bureau of Statistics (updated March 15, 2005). Accessed at http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/5087e58f30c6bb25ca2568b60010b303/e6a9286119fa0a85ca25699000255c89!OpenDocument on August 28, 2005.
22. ________, "National and State Summary Tables," Australian Social Trends, Family and Community: National Summary, Australian Bureau of Statistics (check) (July 12, 2005). Accessed at: http://www.abs.gov.au/Ausstats/abs@.nsf/94713ad445ff1425ca25682000192af2/2f6217fec4a8fa37ca256ea70082b950!OpenDocument on August 13, 2005.
23. ________, "Living Arrangements: Changing Families," Australian Social Trends: Family and Community, Australian Bureau of Statistics (April 22, 2004). Accessed at: http://www.abs.gov.au/Ausstats/abs@.nsf/94713ad445ff1425ca25682000192af2/ea563423fdbffd30ca256d39001bc33c!OpenDocument on August 13, 2005.
24. ________, "National and State Summary Tables," Australian Social Trends, Family and Community: National Summary, Australian Bureau of Statistics (check) (July 12, 2005). Accessed at: http://www.abs.gov.au/Ausstats/abs@.nsf/94713ad445ff1425ca25682000192af2/2f6217fec4a8fa37ca256ea70082b950!OpenDocument on August 13, 2005.
25. ________, "National and State Summary Tables," Australian Social Trends, Family and Community: National Summary, Australian Bureau of Statistics (check) (July 12, 2005). Accessed at: http://www.abs.gov.au/Ausstats/abs@.nsf/94713ad445ff1425ca25682000192af2/2f6217fec4a8fa37ca256ea70082b950!OpenDocument on August 13, 2005.
26. ________, "4442.0 Family Characteristics, Australia," Australian Bureau of Statistics (updated March 15, 2005). Accessed at http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/5087e58f30c6bb25ca2568b60010b303/e6a9286119fa0a85ca25699000255c89!OpenDocument on August 28, 2005.
27.________, "4442.0 Family Characteristics, Australia," Australian Bureau of Statistics (updated March 15, 2005). Accessed at http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/5087e58f30c6bb25ca2568b60010b303/e6a9286119fa0a85ca25699000255c89!OpenDocument on August 28, 2005.
28. ________, "3310.0 Marriages and Divorces, Australia," Australian Bureau of Statistics (November 26, 2003). Accessed at: http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/b06660592430724fca2568b5007b8619/893c1288678fd232ca2568a90013939c! OpenDocument on August 13, 2005.
29. David De Vaus, "Australian Families," Handbook of World Families, Bert N. Adams and Jan Trost (eds). Sage Publications, Inc., Thousand Oaks, CA, pp. 67-98 (2005), p. 70 (citation omitted). Available through: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0761927638/qid=1123855404/sr=8-1/ref=sr_8_xs_ap_i1_xgl14/104-0887680-4192712?v=glance&s=books&n=507846
30. ________, "4442.0 Family Characteristics, Australia," Australian Bureau of Statistics (updated March 15, 2005). Accessed at http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/5087e58f30c6bb25ca2568b60010b303/e6a9286119fa0a85ca25699000255c89!OpenDocument on August 28, 2005.
31. Susan C. Ziehl, "Families in South Africa," Handbook of World Families, Bert N. Adams and Jan Trost (eds). Sage Publications, Inc., Thousand Oaks, CA, pp. 47-63 (2005), p. 53 (citation omitted). Available through: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0761927638/qid=1123855404/sr=8-1/ref=sr_8_xs_ap_i1_xgl14/104-0887680-4192712?v=glance&s=books&n=507846
32. Ruth Katz and Yoav Lavee, "Families in Israel," Handbook of World Families, Bert N. Adams and Jan Trost (eds). Sage Publications, Inc., Thousand Oaks, CA, pp. 486-506 (2005), p. 487. Available through: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0761927638/qid=1123855404/sr=8-1/ref=sr_8_xs_ap_i1_xgl14/104-0887680-4192712?v=glance&s=books&n=507846
33. As of 1996. As of 1996. Gabriel Kiely, The Situation of Families in Ireland, 1996-2001, European Observatory on Family Matters (2001), p. 1. Archived at: http://europa.eu.int/comm/employment_social/eoss/downloads/gm_01_ireland_kiely_en.pdf
34. Susan C. Ziehl, "Families in South Africa," Handbook of World Families, Bert N. Adams and Jan Trost (eds). Sage Publications, Inc., Thousand Oaks, CA, pp. 47-63 (2005), p. 53 (citation omitted). Available through: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0761927638/qid=1123855404/sr=8-1/ref=sr_8_xs_ap_i1_xgl14/104-0887680-4192712?v=glance&s=books&n=507846
35. Indralal De Silva, "Demographic and Social Trends Affecting Families in the South and Central Asian Region," Major Trends Affecting Families: A Background Document, Report for United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Division for Social Policy and Development, Program on the Family (May 2003), p. 5. Report archived at: http://www.un.org/esa/socdev/family/Publications/mtdesilva.pdf Tables archived at: http://www.un.org/esa/socdev/family/Publications/mtscatables.pdf
36. Godfrey St. Bernard, "Major Trends Affecting Families in Central America and the Caribbean," Major Trends Affecting Families: A Background Document, Report for United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Division for Social Policy and Development, Program on the Family (May 23, 2003), p. 11. Report archived at: http://www.un.org/esa/socdev/family/Publications/mtstbernard.pdf and Tables archived at: http://www.un.org/esa/socdev/family/Publications/mtstbtables.pdf
37. Godfrey St. Bernard, "Major Trends Affecting Families in Central America and the Caribbean," Major Trends Affecting Families: A Background Document, Report for United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Division for Social Policy and Development, Program on the Family (May 23, 2003), p. 11. Report archived at: http://www.un.org/esa/socdev/family/Publications/mtstbernard.pdf and Tables archived at: http://www.un.org/esa/socdev/family/Publications/mtstbtables.pdf
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