The hurdles of expensive daycare, the rising cost of housing, the low-availability of welfare for women already working, the demanding natures of jobs which don’t allow for paid medical leave, and the skyrocketing costs of health care, all contribute to the poverty of single mothers. While I was taking a deeper look into this problem, it became abundantly clear to me that this is definitely a big “public issue” that needs to be addressed from a social policy standpoint. One of the biggest issues facing America today is poverty.
One of the single most contributing factors of poverty is single-parent (namely single mother) households. Certainly it’s easy to look at individual families like these and see a string of individual choices. Yet, it goes far beyond “personal trouble” and is definitely considered to be a “public issue” (a “public crisis” one might say). As Mills sates in The Sociological Imagination, “Perhaps the most fruitful distinction with which the sociological imagination works is between 'the personal troubles of milieu' and 'the public issues of social structure’” (Mills, pg. 2).
Let’s zoom out and look at the bigger picture here. “The poverty rate among children is higher in the United States than in most other major Western industrialized nations” (Leon-Guerrero, pg. 44). When looking at the single mothers who raise these children, the poverty rate in the U. S. for these women is far above the average in other high income countries, even though the single mother employment rate in the U. S. is also above the average. Less generous income support programs in the U. S. help explain the exceptionally high poverty rate for single mother families in the U.
S (forbes. com). This clearly demonstrates the legitimacy of this being a public issue. It’s true that more and more children are growing up in single parent households, and many of these families struggle to get by. In fact, “…children are more likely to live in poverty than Americans in any other age group” (Leon-Guerrero, pg. 44). But that’s not an accident of poor choices: while single parenthood has been skyrocketing, we’ve also been paring back the supports that could help these families stay afloat. Single mothers have an especially hard time getting out of poverty.
Households headed by single mothers are four times as likely to be poor as are families headed by married couples (Leon-Guerrero, pg. 46). Not only that, but, “Single-parent families are more vulnerable to poverty because there is only one adult income earner, and female heads of household are disadvantaged even further because women in general make less money than men do” (Leon-Guerrero, pg. 46). In fact, “Families with a female householder and no spouse present were more likely to be poor than families with a male householder and no spouse present, 28. % versus 13. 8%” (Leon-Guerrero, pg. 45). And because the majority of single-parent households are headed by single-mothers, this inevitably increases the rate of poverty nationwide. Most of these mothers live in relative poverty, which refers to, “…a situation in which some people fail to achieve the average income or lifestyle enjoyed by the rest of society” (Leon-Guerrero, pg. 40). Take childcare for instance; the high cost of taking care of one’s child is crippling to a single mother making minimum wage and almost immediately plummets her into relative poverty.
On average, a poor mother spends 32 percent of her total weekly income on child care. This percentage nearly doubles when more than one child needs care (forbes. com). When a family is faced with relative poverty, the affects spread wide. Income loss appears to affect the well-being of children indirectly through negative impact on family relations and parenting. Single parents experience a variety of stressors related to poverty (i. e. , financial, emotional, social). Single mothers must obtain sufficient money to cover the most basic needs, such as food, shelter, and clothing. Wealth is a particularly important indicator of the individual and family access to life chances. Wealth is a special form of money not used to purchase milk and shoes and other life necessities. More often it is used to create opportunities, secure desired stature and standard of living, or pass class status along to one’s children” (Leon-Guerrero, pg. 39). So, what about solutions? “The sociological imagination will also help us make a second connection: the one between social problems and social solutions” (Leon-Guerrero, pg. 23).
When looking at public issues, the textbook makes it clear that, “Solutions require social action – in the form of social policy, advocacy, and innovation – to address problems at their structural or individual levels” (Leon-Guerrero, pg. 20). It is essential that we take a fresh look at our national policies -- and their dismal results. Not only are U. S. poverty rates extremely high, with one out of five children living in poverty (Leon-Guerrero, pg. 40); crime rates are also high, with all the resulting costs not only to crime victims, but to taxpayers in court, prison and other attendant public expenses.
Even more costly is the enormous price our nation is paying, and will pay, if we continue not to invest in a remedy to this poverty crisis. So, if single parenthood and poverty are so closely related, some people say, we should spend hundreds of millions of dollars promoting marriage to help children avoid poverty (and other problems). That’s what the government has done, with money from the welfare budget. Even if it worked (which it apparently doesn’t) it’s only one approach. What about reducing poverty?
And, more specifically, what about reducing the relative likelihood of poverty in single-parent families versus those with married parents? That is, address the poverty gap between the two groups, rather than the size of the two groups. This has the added advantage of not singling out one group — single mothers — for social stigmatization. And, because it defines the problem as economic rather than moral, may make it easier to build public support for helping the poor. Although, “Helping our nation’s poor has been an administrative priority of many U. S. presidents” (Leon-Guerrero, pg. 0), the poverty problem does not seem to be getting much better. Maybe we need to change the conversation about we’re facing here. The conversation about single mothers should focus on how the extreme poverty of U. S. woman-headed families is a symptom of failed U. S. policies. And the conversation about the U. S. economy should focus on the urgent need for a caring economy. We are clearly lacking a “caring economy” when we are compared to other wealthy nations, “U. S. wage and welfare programs are much smaller than similar programs in other countries” (Leon-Guerrero, pg. 46). Issues have to do with matters that transcend these local environments of the individual and the range of his inner life. They have to do with the organization of many such milieux into the institutions of an historical society as a whole, with the ways in which various milieux overlap and interpenetrate to form the larger structure of social and historical life” (Mills, pg 2). The issue of poverty clearly stems from the larger structure of social and historical life. It is sad to know that our efforts as a wealthy society are not effectively healing this tragic situation.
The poverty level of single mothers affects so many areas of our society as a whole, and our nation’s children get the brunt of it. Not only are they raised poor and impoverished, but their quality of education is compromised, the food they eat is low-quality and unhealthful, and most of them never find their way out of poverty. Writing this paper has truly touched my heart and I long to reach out to single mothers and their children who are desperately in need of compassion and support. More importantly, I would like to reach out this election year and see what I can do to promote the well-being of these mothers who are struggling so hard.
Budget Summary for Single Mother in Delta County, Colorado The most recent report for minimum wage in Delta County, Colorado is $7. 25 an hour. The total monthly income for a person working full-time at minimum wage is: $1198 (after taxes). Explanation of calculation: 7. 25 * 40 = 290 (a week) 290 * 52 (weeks in a year) = 15,080 15,080 / 12 (months) = 1256 1256 * . 0463 (income tax rate in Delta County 4. 63%) = 58 1256 – 58 = 1198 Housing Costs| $616| Food Costs| $536| Other Necessities:| | Medical| $412| Clothing| $35| Transportation| $439|
Childcare| $996| Phone| $40| Laundry/toiletries/cleaning supplies| $52| School supplies and fees| $20| Appliance and furniture| $17| Miscellaneous| $47| Nonessentials| | Entertainment| $20| Cable| $0| Cigarettes and alcohol| $0| Eat out| $25| Lottery| $5| TOTAL| $3260| *This budget reflects the fact that there is absolutely no public transportation in or around Delta County, so the transportation costs include car payment, insurance, and gas costs. This budget also reflects that I would not invest any money in cable, cigarettes, or alcohol.
Also, the cost of childcare for two children in Delta County is exorbitant! At any expense, I couldn’t have my 7 year-old child be a latchkey kid so young. The entertainment and costs of eating out are kept to a minimum. I would (just in case) spend $5 a month on the lottery. Clearly, this mother (hypothetically, me) would be nowhere near making ends meet. I would be living in relative poverty, scraping by every day, living hand-to-mouth, and I would have to be very creative with my time and resources. I would have to make almost TRIPLE what I am currently making in order to live comfortably.
Most likely, I would reach out to neighbors, church members, community support groups, food banks, and any other possible resource to keep my head above water. Works Cited Covert, Bryce. "The Rise and Downfall Of The American Single Mother. " Forbes. Forbes Magazine, 16 July 2012. Web. 21 Oct. 2012. ;http://www. forbes. com/sites/brycecovert/2012/07/16/the-rise-and-downf all-of-single-mothers/;. Leon-Guerrero, Anna. Social Problems: Community, Policy, and Social Action. Thousand Oaks, CA: Pine Forge, 2011. Print. Mills, C. Wright. The Sociological Imagination. New York: Oxford UP, 1959. Print.