I posted yesterday about the links between single parenthood and poverty and referred at the end to the relatively small portion of people that fall into poverty by becoming single parents. Well the Urban Institute just dropped a great research brief into my inbox summarizing the research on poverty “spells.” Just in the interest of being straight with my readers, I should point this nugget out: “Single-mother households become poor at a rate of 15.7 percent a year, compared with just 2.8 percent for married-parent households (Ribar and Hamrick 2003).”
So, yes, households headed by a single mother are more at risk for poverty. But even so, the overwhelming majority of these households are not in poverty. Poverty and single parenthood should not be conflated. And, to again reinforce, a solid plurality of poverty spells are caused by job loss not by parenting status: “between 40 and 50 percent of those who become poor live in a household where the head of the household, spouse, or other family member lost his or her job.” The majority of people (the brief says between 50 and 70 percent) who leave poverty do so because they or a household member got a job, not because a single parent found a spouse.