Study on Black Single Moms Debunks Stereotypes

Black America Web, News Report, Monica M. Lewis Posted: Jan 05, 2005

A recent report by the U.S. Census Bureau shows that more than 80 percent of black single mothers have completed high school – an achievement that not only can aid them in raising families but one that goes a long way in debunking the stereotypes of single black mothers as welfare queens and drug abusers.

“We’ve kind of always known that black women had much stronger labor force attachments than white women,” Rutgers University professor William M. Rodgers told
However, he said, a pay gap still exists between black and white women – as do other hurdles that make managing a one-parent household difficult for women of color.

“Many [black single mothers] have challenges due to their surroundings,” Rodgers said, adding that more often than not, black single mothers may face an array of problems, ranging from finding suitable childcare to recovering from domestic violence.

Last month, the U.S. Census Bureau released a study, “America’s Families and Living Arrangements 2003,” that explored the state of American family households. The findings, based on data collected from 2002 statistics, focused on a number of basic trends in household compositions, including living arrangements, marital status of adults, and characteristics of unmarried households.

The study doesn’t delve into the employment history of single mothers, but it can be assumed that the better a person’s education, the better their chances are to obtain and maintain gainful employment.

The number of single-mother families increased from three million in 1970 to 10 million in 2003, while the number of single-father families grew from less than 500,000 to 2 million. There are now 3.1 million black single mothers compared to 6.4 million white single mothers and 1.8 million single Hispanic mothers.

The rise in single-parent households developed, the study claims, for two main reasons – a larger proportion of births occurring in unmarried women in the 1990s than in the 1960s and 1970s and the rise in divorce among couples with children.

According to the report, approximately 1,169,000 black single mothers – or 37 percent – have graduated from high school only, compared to 2,235,000 – or 35 percent – of white single mothers. For Hispanic single mothers, that number was 586,000.

But the number of black single mothers with a bachelor’s degree or higher, 315,000, was significantly lower than that of white single mothers with comparable education, 904,000, and higher than that of Hispanic single mothers in that category, 90,000. About a million black single mothers had some college education, compared to two million white single mothers and 396,000 Hispanic single mothers.

Twenty percent of black single mothers in the study had been divorced, but 62 percent had never been married – suggesting that black single mothers – more than any ethnic group – were most likely to have never been married.

Nearly one third of all single mothers – 32 percent – live below the poverty line. However, the condition is more acute for black single mothers: 38 percent, or 1.2 million of 3.1 million black single mothers raise families below the poverty line, according to Census data.

“Single parents have a lot of constraints and pretty much, they’re going to have to rely on a relative or friend to get by at times,” said Jason Fields, author of the Census Bureau’s study.

Fields said single parenting can be a burden for women of any race.

“Certainly, it’s clear that single parents have a great deal of additional constraints and difficulties,” Fields said. “It’s well understood that married parents have the support and resources that may make life easier in some respects.”

Despite the unleveled pay structure, Rodgers said pursuing and obtaining advanced education can benefit children of black single mothers, just as much as the single mother herself.

“In the long term, improving one’s education and skills helps create a better lifestyle for themselves and their family,” Rodgers said. “But, it’s the short-term needs that are crucial.”

Among them, Rodgers said, are finding good jobs, getting job appropriate clothing, and securing daycare for their children. With 36 months of very little job growth in the United States and rising costs in health care, gas, and other everyday necessities, he said, single black mothers are just as stressed, if not more, than married and unmarried parents.

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