Nov 9, 2023 - Economy

The poverty rate soared for families headed by single mothers last year

Data: National Women's Law Center calculations based on U.S. Census Bureau, Current Population Survey Annual Social and Economic Supplements microdata; Chart: Axios Visuals

Despite a strong labor market in 2022, the poverty rate for families headed by single mothers soared, according to a new analysis provided first to Axios.

Why it matters: That's due to the expiration of key pandemic-era benefits, including the child tax credit.

  • Women and children face disproportionate poverty and hardship in the U.S., writes Shengwei Sun, a senior research analyst at the National Women's Law Center, who wrote the report.

Zoom in: Sun analyzed the U.S. Census Bureau's supplemental poverty measure, which looks at the share of the population with income below the poverty line and takes into account paychecks, SNAP benefits, and tax credits.

By the numbers: The overall supplemental poverty rate increased to 12.4% from 7.8%, while child poverty more than doubled, the September census data showed.

  • Sun found that the rate for households headed by a single father rose to 16.2% from 9.5%, a much smaller increase than for single mothers.

Zoom out: A recent book from economist Melissa Kearney drew attention to the role that family structure plays in families' economic outcomes — households headed up by one parent face enormous cost challenges, especially for childcare — arguing for strengthening two-parent households.

  • But the left-leaning NWLC report argues that the fix isn't pushing couples into marriage or cohabitation.
  • Rather, the U.S. meaningfully moved the needle on poverty for single mothers and children by deploying those pandemic-era benefits, the data show.
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