Lone Parents and their Poverty

  • Barbara R. Bergmann


In most of the human societies we know about, both past and present, the male parent has been an important personage in the life of his children. Typically, he has lived with them and made substantial contributions toward the expense of raising them. Over the last half-century, we have been witnessing what appears to be a loosening of the economic and social bonds between men and their children. In the United States almost 20 million children—approaching 1 in 4 children—are being raised by mothers who do not have a husband living with them. Some of these husbandless mothers have another adult (who may or may not be the father of one or more of the children, and who may or may not be a sexual partner) as part of their household, but a large majority does not.


Depression Transportation Income Assure Expense 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    Jason Fields, “Children’s Living Arrangements and Characteristics: March 2002,” Current Population Reports, P20–547 (U.S. Census Bureau, June 2003). Historical data are from http://www.census.gov.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Timothy S. Grall, “Custodial Mothers and Fathers and Their Child Support: 2001, ” Current Population Reports, P60–225 (U.S. Census Bureau, October 2003 ).Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Birthrate for 1970 from National Center for Health Statistics, Advance Report of Final Natality Statistics, 1983, Monthly Vital Statistics Report, p. 3.Google Scholar
  4. Rates for later years from Joyce A. Martin et al., “Births: Final Data for 2002,” National Vital Statistics Reports, Vol. 52, No. 10, December 17, 2003, and associated web tables.Google Scholar
  5. 7.
    See Clair Vickery (Brown), “The Time-poor: A New Look at Poverty,” Journal of Human Resources 12, 1 (winter 1977): 27–48.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 8.
    See Trudi J. Renwick and Barbara R. Bergmann, “A Budget-Based Definition of Poverty, With an Application to Single-Parent Families,” Journal of Human Resources 28, 1 (winter 1993): 1–24.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. In 1995, a committee of the National Academy of Sciences endorsed the budget-based approach. Constance E. Citro and Robert T. Michael (eds), Measuring Poverty: A New Approach (Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 1995).Google Scholar
  8. 9.
    Friedrich Engels, Origin of the Family, quoted in The Woman Question; Selections from the Writings of Karl Marx, Frederick Engels, V.I. Lenin and Joseph Stalin (New York: International Publishers, 1970), p. 16.Google Scholar
  9. 12.
    Phyllis Schlafly, The Power of the Positive Woman (New York: Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, 1977).Google Scholar
  10. 13.
    Christopher Lasch, Haven in a Heartless World (New York: Basic Books, 1977).Google Scholar
  11. 14.
    See Irwin Garfinkel, Assuring Child Support: An Extension of Social Security (New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 1992).Google Scholar
  12. 15.
    Harry Krause, Child Support in America: The Legal Perspective (Charlottesville, VA: The Mickie Co., 1981).Google Scholar
  13. 17.
    Elaine Sorensen, “A National Profile of Nonresident Fathers and Their Ability to Pay Child Support,” Journal of Marriage and the Family 59, 4 (1997): 785–797.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. 19.
    See chapter 8 in Lenore Weitzmann, The Divorce Revolution (New York: The Free Press, 1985).Google Scholar
  15. 21.
    Barbara R. Bergmann and Mark Roberts, “Income for the Single Parent: Work, Child Support, and Welfare,” in Clair Brown and Joseph Pechman (eds), Gender in the Workplace (Washington, DC: The Brookings Institution, 1986).Google Scholar
  16. 22.
    There had been some “mothers’ pensions” awarded by state governments. See Theda Skocpol, Protecting Soldiers and Mothers: The Political Origins of Social Policy in the United States (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1992).Google Scholar
  17. 23.
    This account of the early history of welfare relies on chapter 5 of Heather L. Ross and Isabel V. Sawhill, Time of Transition: The Growth of Families Headed by Women (Washington, DC: The Urban Institute, 1975).Google Scholar
  18. See also Barbara R. Bergmann, Saving Our Children from Poverty: What the United States Can Learn from France (New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 1996). The original name of the program was Aid to Dependent Children. It was set up under the Social Security Act of 1935, which also set up Unemployment Insurance and Old Age and Survivor’s Insurance (OASI, later OASDI, popularly known as “Social Security”). Widows of men who had Social Security coverage now receive benefits under the latter program.Google Scholar
  19. 26.
    Committee on Ways and Means, U.S. House of Representatives, “Backround Material and Data on Programs within the Jurisdiction of the Committee on Ways and Means,” February 22, 1985, p. 348.Google Scholar
  20. 27.
    Kathryn Edin and Laura Lein, Making Ends Meet: How Single Mothers Survive Welfare and Low-Wage Work (New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 1997).Google Scholar
  21. 31.
    Pamela J. Loprest, “Fewer Welfare Leavers Employed in Weak Economy” (Washington, DC: The Urban Institute, August 21, 2003).Google Scholar
  22. 32.
    See Gwendolin Mink, Whose Welfare? (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1999).Google Scholar
  23. 33.
    Mark Robert Rank, One Nation, Underprivileged: Why American Poverty Affects Us All (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. 34.
    L. Haas and P. Hwang, “Parental Leave in Sweden,” in P. Moss and E F. Deven (eds), Parental Leave: Progress or Pitfall? Research and Policy Issues in Europe (Brussels: CBGS Publications, 1999), pp. 45–68.Google Scholar
  25. 35.
    For a discussion of this issue, see Barbara R. Bergmann, “The Only Ticket to Equality: Total Androgyny, Male Style,” journal of Contemporary Legal Issues 9 (spring 1998): 75–86.Google Scholar
  26. 36.
    For a review of the studies on this matter, see Suzanne Helburn and Barbara R. Bergmann, America’s Child Care Problem: The Way Out (New York: Palgrave, 2002).Google Scholar
  27. 37.
    David Card and Alan B. Krueger, Myth and Measurement: The New Economics of the Minimum Wage (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1995).Google Scholar
  28. 38.
    This is the conclusion of a panel of experts brought together by the National Academy of Sciences. See Constance F. Citro and Robert T. Michael (eds), Measuring Poverty: A New Approach (Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 1995).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Barbara R. Bergmann 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Barbara R. Bergmann

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations