Poverty Among the Poorest Poor in the United States: Trends for Never-Married Women and their Children

Lawrence L. Wu, New York University
Miodrag Stojnic, New York University

In this paper, we document levels and trends in poverty for never-married mothers and their children in the United States. Because roughly one-third of births between 1995 and 2000 were to unmarried mothers, our estimates are relevant to the poverty experience of a substantial proportion of recent cohorts of children, who will, in turn, constitute a substantial fraction of the future U.S. adult population. Our results contribute to the large body of research on poverty in single female households by distinguishing between two distinct groups of single mothers---those who have been previously-married and those who have never married. In analyses of the 1974-2006 March Current Population Surveys, we find substantially higher levels of poverty among never-married mothers and their children. We conclude that for the last quarter of the twentieth century, never-married mothers and their children have constituted the poorest of the poor among demographic subgroups in the United States.

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Presented in Session 116: Poverty, Hardship and Mobility Amongst Women and Children in the USA