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Try out PMC Labs and tell us what you think. Learn More. Using American Community Survey data from, andthis paper assesses the relationships between employment, race, and poverty for households headed by single women across different economic periods. While poverty rates rose dramatically among single-mother families between andsurprisingly many racial disparities in poverty narrowed by the end of the decade.
This was due to a greater increase in poverty among whites, although gaps between whites and Blacks, whites and Hispanics, and whites and American Indians remained quite large in All employment statuses were at higher risk of poverty in than and the risk increased most sharply for those employed part-time, the unemployed, and those not in the labor force.
Given the concurrent increase in part-time employment and unemployment between andfindings paint a bleak picture of the toll the last decade has had on the well being of single-mother families. At the start of the 21 st century, researchers saw positive s that poverty rates among single-parent households were on the decline Lichter and Crowley Employment levels among single mothers also increased and the of such families on welfare declined Clampet-Lundquist et al.
Ten years later, in the wake of the Great Recession of —, much of this optimism has receded. Overall poverty rates were the highest of the decade at A decade into the 21 st century, Black and Hispanic single-mothers and their children continue to bear a much higher poverty risk than their white counterparts McLanahan and Percheski ; U. While greater poverty rates among single mother families are not surprising in the wake of an economic downturn, did families headed by women of color disproportionately bear a greater burden of poverty risk?
First, employment patterns differ by race Reid and education Hamil-Luker and the race wage-gap is persistent Dozier ; McCall This suggests that the relationship between employment and poverty may differ according to race, with minority women more likely to be working in jobs that pay below-poverty wages than white women, yet these relationships have been for the most part only indirectly explored see Lichter and Crowley for a notable exception. Second, there has been relatively little research on how these relationships might differ during different economic periods, even though research suggests that work-focused welfare programs are less effective during times of economic depression when the of people seeking jobs increases and the of jobs decreases Kwon and Meyer The first decade of the s mark the first full decade since the passage of the Welfare Reform Act of that moved the majority of poor families off of the welfare rolls Clampet et al.
The more hopeful research about the decline of poverty and the decline of women of color in poverty that emerged at the beginning of the 20 th century likely reflected the fact that the economy had expanded steadily for close to ten years by NBER In contrast, we examine the beginning of the decadea time at which the economy experienced a mild recession, the middle of the decadea time at which the economy was in the midst of an expansion, and the end of the decade a time that followed a ificant recession Autor ; National Bureau of Economic Research NBER ; Smeeding, Thompson, Levanon, and Burak Looking at the relationship between employment, race, and poverty across the decade at three distinct points beginning, middle, and close will allow us to see if changes in the broader economy have affected the tie between employment and poverty for the most vulnerable families, those headed by single women.
Further, we also examine whether there is a racial dimension to this vulnerability by exploring whether Black and Hispanic women are placed at particular risk. This paper asks: What are the relationships between employment, race, and poverty? Do these relationships change across the first decade of the 21 st century? Using data from the, and American Community Survey, we explore racial differences in poverty among single-mother households over the decade, as well as differences in how full-time employment, part-time employment, or unemployment may attenuate or exacerbate poverty rates during three distinct economic periods in the 21 st century: the economic recession of that followed a long period of expansion, a period of economic growth and labor market expansion inand a period of ificant economic decline at the close of the decade for detailed characterizations of these economic periods, see Autor ; National Bureau of Economic Research Single mother of color ; Smeeding et al.
Relative to white and Asian single-mother households, Black and Hispanic women and their children living in single-parent households are at high risk of being in poverty Elmelech and Lu ; Lichter and Crowley ; Lichter, Qian, and Crowley ; McLanahan and Percheski .
There is some variation in child poverty risks among Asians and Hispanics, which reflects differences between new immigrants and second generations that have been attributed to the economic benefits of acculturation Lichter et al. Recent research suggests that multiracial single-parent families may experience poverty at rates in between mono-racial whites and mono-racial single-parent families of color Author These patterns are consistent with other indicators that demonstrate the power of racial stratification to exacerbate disadvantage even among already disadvantaged sub-groups, such as single mothers.
Although maternal employment can reduce poverty rates Lichter and Crowleyparticularly when the economy is strong Icelandthe relationships between Single mother of color, employment, single-parent births, low education levels, and a lack of work experience Alon and Haberfeld ; Ciabattari ; Musick ; Pettit and Ewert may make employment less effective in pulling some groups of women out of poverty. Women who become single-mothers generally have less human capital to bring to the labor market due to having less education and fewer work experiences than their peers Ciabattari ; Musick Furthermore, Black and Hispanic single mothers often begin motherhood at a younger age than whites and Asians, which often delays or completely eliminates educational progress beyond high school, decreasing cumulative earnings Hoffman and Maynard On the other hand, Lichter and Crowley found that the greatest gains of increased maternal employment in the s, in terms of decreases in poverty rates, were to African-American families Lichter and Crowley Both lines of research suggest that the benefits of employment and its impact on poverty status differ across race.
Race and gender variation in poverty is strongly tied to labor force experiences, encompassing both the type of employment that women secure and the wages women receive. Although in the mid th century, women of color were more likely to work than their white counterparts, this trend has reversed in recent decades England et al. Hispanic women also experience a wage gap compared to white women Alon and Haberfeld ; England et al.
Ultimately, a lack of employment opportunities for women of color in urban environments may lead to an accumulation of disadvantages and an increased likelihood of living in poverty Tienda and Stier When work is not available or poorly paid, social safety net programs, including welfare or SNAP also known as food stampsmay provide a buffer from poverty Moffit While it seems clear that single-mothers who are Black and Hispanic may be at greater risk of experiencing poverty than their white or Asian peers, research has left unclear whether this risk of poverty changes depending on the broader economic context.
The economy hit a peak of expansion in March after ten years of steady expansion and fell into a recession NBER The recession was short lived, ending in November after which the economy rebounded, adding two percent to the total labor market by Autor Finally, the recession led to large increases in unemployment, ificant decreases in wages, and the ensuing recovery has been halting with extremely slow job growth Hoynes, Miller, and Schaller ; Smeeding et al.
Moreover, the Great Recession did not evenly influence the life chances of all workers: risk of unemployment, of home loss, and of bankruptcy all varied across factors such as race, gender, and class Grusky, Western, and Wimer While much attention has been paid to how the Great Recession impacted young men, there has been less focus on the ramifications of the recession for young women.
In particular, it is unclear if the changes in the broader labor market have changed the relationship between race, poverty, and employment for single mothers.
How might race matter to employment and thus poverty in the midst of the recession? On one hand, the recent economic downturn has increased poverty rates among all families Cancian and Danzinger and economic downturns can reduce employment levels among those leaving welfare Kwon and Meyerregardless of race.
Since the risk of poverty is tied not only to employment, but also to the availability of government safety nets Clampet-Lundquist et al. Moreover, there has been a decline in wages across groups in the wake of the recession Hoynes et al.
Employment levels decreased most dramatically among high school dropouts and those with only a high school degree Hout, Levanon, and Cumberworth However, African Americans faced greater economic costs from the Great Recession than whites, including home loss and bankruptcy, because they had fewer resources to buoy them in the wake of the recession Wolff, Owens, and Burak Moreover, African Americans had the highest rates of unemployment compared to other racial groups prior to the recession and also experienced the greatest increase in unemployment during and in the wake of the recession of — Hout et al.
Moreover, education appears to act as less of a buffer from job loss for African Americans than it does for whites Hout et al. Finally, employment status may play an important role in the relationship between employment, race, and poverty among single mothers.
Black and Hispanic women report higher levels of part-time employment and higher levels of unemployment than do their white and Asian peers Author ; England et al. Part-time employment is more tenuous than full-time employment and often lacks the health and other attendant benefits of full-time work Mishel, Bernstein, and Bousheyas well as a ificant loss of pay, as part-time work rarely pays as well as full-time work and is for fewer hours Webber and Williams What remains unexplored is whether racial stratification le to even greater disparities across race among single mother households during harsh economic times.
The recession produced a broad based uptick in the unemployment and poverty rates Grusky et al. Poverty risks may have elevated for certain groups, as forces that underline enhanced poverty risks Lin and Harris become more acute over this period. Alternatively, the realities of racially stratified opportunities may mean that racial differences in poverty are maintained, demonstrating the ways racial hierarchies persist.
Rising racial inequalities in poverty across this period would suggest that race-based poverty represents the result of culmination of a variety of disadvantages plaguing groups of color. In light of these issues, we provide one of the only to our knowledge time-series appraisals of race, employment and poverty for single mothers. Full time employment is a crucial means to keeping single mothers, of all races, out of poverty, but it is unclear how or if this has changed as the economy declined. The existing literature on the intersections of race, gender, and employment lead us to form three primary hypotheses.
First, we anticipate that race will continue to shape poverty risk above and beyond SES or other background characteristics throughout the decade. Moreover, research suggests that people of color were hit harder by the economic recession than were whites, leading to our first hypothesis:. Hypothesis 1 H 1 : Racial differences in poverty among single mothers will increase across years, regardless of employment status, and other aspects of socioeconomic resources. Second, the continued racial differences in workforce participation and wages suggest that there will be unequal returns for full-time work for women attempting to leave poverty across the decade:.
Hypothesis 2 H 2. Regardless of period, Black and Hispanic single mothers working full or part-time Single mother of color be more likely to experience poverty than white women who are similarly employed. This le us to our third hypothesis:. Hypothesis 3 H 3. Regardless of race, those employed full or part-time ina time of economic downturn, will be more likely to experience poverty than those similarly employed in The data for this research comes from a pooled sample of the American Community Survey ACSexamining the years, and one year estimates.
The ACS is a repeated cross sectional survey modeled after the former United States Census long form, including many of the same questions as the Census long-form National Research Council The full sample includes information on over three million respondents per year. We restrict our analytical samples to primary families that include mothers as householders Single mother of color co-resident children and perhaps unmarried partners but no spouses.
Although some households include multiple families, aggregate estimates of poverty among single-mother and married-couple families do not vary much if poverty is measured at the family level as opposed to the household level Iceland We included female householders with grandchildren both to ensure that we captured the broadest sample of the children living with a female householder and also as low-income families are more likely to rely on extended kin to care to act as primary caregivers for children Sarkisian and Gerstel Our dependent measure for this paper is presence of a family in poverty.
We draw on the poverty status measure that captures the total family income of the year as a percentage of the poverty threshold, ranging from 0 to percent or more. The poverty threshold, which was established in by the Social Security Administration, varies depending on the total persons in the family see Fisher This measure is critiqued on many fronts see National Research Council Although new measures, most notably the supplemental poverty measure, have been constructed to address these criticisms, this measure requires information not available for years of the ACS used in this analysis.
Additionally, employing this standard measure allows for comparability to other analyses used in policy discussions of economic and material hardship. This adopts the convention of classifying respondents first into one pan-ethnic Hispanic category, regardless of other race s selected, and classifying those selecting one race into their self-reported category. While the U. Pacific Islanders and Some Other Race are collapsed into one category and those deated multiple races are placed in a separate category. In addition to race, we include covariates for year of data collection, and as as the reference group, with covariates for and Born mothers that are contrasted with foreign-born citizen and foreign born, not a citizen.
We also include measures of English proficiency. Those who speak only English are the reference category and the remaining are: speaks English or speaks it well, speaks English not well, speaks no English. We provide a series of measures tapping different aspects of family composition. Occupational information comes from a variable indicating current or most recent occupation, and, among those with more than one job, from the occupation to which the individual devotes the most time.
In addition, we adjust for receipt of public assistance with two dichotomous measures indicating a whether or not anyone in the household receives food stamps or a food stamp benefit card and b indicating whether the householder receives income from a state or local welfare office. The ACS engages a multistage complex sampling strategy that must be adjusted for in statistical tests. The IPUMS extracts of this data provide person weights, cluster, and strata variables to estimate variances and standard errors using Taylor series linearization method to adjust for complex survey de Ruggles et al.
This approach differs from the use of replicate weights that are also employed to adjust for the multistage sampling approach of the ACS. Replicate weights, while more precise, are only available for ACS samples taken from onward.Single mother of color
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