Improving The Lives Of Single Moms And Their Kids

Editor’s note: On NPR’s Talk of the Nation, Isabel Sawhill discussed the societal effects of single motherhood with Neil Conan and Philip Cohen.

NEAL CONAN, HOST: [F]or whatever reason, the number of single mothers is going up. What’s the best way to improve the prospects for them and their kids?

SAWHILL: Well, I think that there are certain things we should be doing for single parents. I think their biggest need is child care, because most of them are going to have to work. That’s almost inevitable if you’re a single parent. And what are you going to with your kids while you’re at work? Some of them are in low-wage jobs and thus can’t afford decent childcare for their kids. So I would say that’s a high priority in my book.

CONAN: We heard a cut of tape at the beginning of the show from a woman who needed to get at least eight credits in a college course so she could qualify for the student discount for the childcare that she needed, otherwise couldn’t afford because of her fulltime job. That doesn’t leave an awful lot of time for a child.

SAWHILL: It doesn’t leave much time, and if you are a low-income worker, a very large proportion of your income has to be set aside just to pay your childcare expenses.

CONAN: And this is – as you look at the statistics, it’s becoming the new norm for women under 30.

SAWHILL: It is becoming the new norm. Over half, a little over half, right now, of all babies born in America, are born outside of marriage. And so when I wrote the piece for the Washington Post that you mentioned a moment ago, what was concerning is when this does become the new norm, how do we manage?

It’s not as if the taxpayers who are in two-parent families can afford to pay for the other half of taxpayers that are in one-parent families. That isn’t going to work.

Listen to the full interview »