How Single Mothers in the United States Earn their Bread

How single mothers in the United States earn their bread

Single parenthood has been on the rise in over the last two decades. There has especially been an uptick in the number of single mothers in that country in the recent years. And about 80 percent of single-parent families are headed by single mothers. Although most of them are employed, poverty rate is quite high among them. Two-fifths of single mothers exist below the poverty line. The reason, according to researchers, is that the income support system for single mothers is woefully inadequate, and the rate of low-wage work among them is very high. About 87 percent of single parents work 30 or more hours a week.
A single mother in Arizona told The New York Times that she would do almost anything simply to stay alive. Nearly half of the children born in Arizona in 2012 were of single mothers. The census says that the number of single mothers in Arizona is higher than the national rate, and one of the highest in the country.
The government looks the other way
Only one-tenth of single mothers receive cash welfare assistance. Two-fifths of them receive food stamps. Money from the ‘Temporary Assistance for Needy Families’ (TANF) has become the last resort for single mothers, but the granted amount under this welfare scheme has depleted dramatically in the last two decades. According to Robert Moffitt, an economist at the Johns Hopkins University, the poorest single-mother families in the US receive 35 percent less in government transfers than they did three decades back. There has been a significant growth in the total government support for low-income families since 1986. It is only the single mothers who have been left with a tiny share in the distribution of that support.
Changing patterns
In 1935, the Congress originated schemes such as Unemployment Insurance and Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) and helped in employment/career development assistance. These were cash transfers meant to help needy families, especially those single parents unable to find a job or temporarily out of work. But as more and more women started entering the workforce, the society started getting uncomfortable with them. Single mothers drawing welfare benefits were termed mockingly as “welfare queens”. As an after-effect, in 1996, the Bill Clinton government transformed the AFDC into the TANF. It came with a five-year time limit, and mothers availing this scheme were required to work 30 hours per week or they would risk losing their benefits. This step was meant to make availing government benefits tougher for single mothers.
Cultural impact
Despite the hardships of availing TANF assistance, more and more single mothers in Arizona have been resorting to it in recent years. Of the 9,600 adults receiving cash grants in the state in 2014, 84 percent were single parents, and 74 percent of the 563,170 adults receiving food/nutrition stamps were unmarried. This made the authorities concerned about the welfare roll, and Arizona started trying to reinforce the ‘value of marriage’. It gave the option of ‘covenant marriage contracts’ that required the couple to undergo premarital counseling, and could only be dissolved in the case of adultery, abuse or abandonment. The state also passed laws to make the process of divorce more tenuous. More than $1 million of funds from the TANF program was taken away to fund a commission to support marriage.

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