S2:E2: Single Mother Statistics and What Do They Mean?

S2:E3: Lone Mothers in History- Dorothy Shimer and Myrlie Evers Smart, Single, and Unscripted

I wanted to choose two people to spotlight who were single mothers, not by choice, and women who did not have the financial means to hire nannies, send their children to boarding schools or have the money only to work when they wanted. I chose Myrlie and my great-grandmother to highlight because they were truly single mothers who had to fight their way to success, all while working, managing their homes, and keeping the bills paid. They did not have endless means of wealth and support, they had a handful of people and only the money they made. While I will be broadening my scope in the upcoming episodes and including interviews and stories on single women and mothers who are all over the board on lifestyles and incomes, I did want to make sure I focused on these two women first, as they were both alive at the same time, and both struggling to single-parent in a world that was not fair or kind to women and in Myrlie’s case, single mothers of color.  I hope you have found a bit of inspiration from the brief stories of my great-grandmother and Myrlie Evers. Next week, we will be discussing the systems I have implemented in my life to help me keep my sanity as a full-time work-from-home single mother with ADHD.  Please have a great week ladies and as always, stay safe and remember, we are in this together!  Resources: https://www.ruthshousect.com/blog/honoring-remarkable-single-mothers-throughout-history https://singlenycmom.com/iconic-single-moms/ https://esme.com/single-mom-voices/perspectives/celebrating-most-influential-single-moms-black-history-month http://mckenziesofearlymaryland.com/getperson.php?personID=I12981&tree=McKenzie1 https://naacp.org/find-resources/history-explained/civil-rights-leaders/medgar-evers https://www.nps.gov/people/myrlie-evers-williams.htm https://amzn.to/425zQyV (The Autobiography of Medgar Evers) https://amzn.to/42Tmozn (For Us the Living- Myrlie Evers)https://amzn.to/3Wt0yjE (Watch Me Fly- Myrlie Evers) — Send in a voice message: https://podcasters.spotify.com/pod/show/stephanie-l-poling/message Support this podcast: https://podcasters.spotify.com/pod/show/stephanie-l-poling/support
  1. S2:E3: Lone Mothers in History- Dorothy Shimer and Myrlie Evers
  2. S2:E2 Single Mother Statistics and What Do They Mean?
  3. Season 2, Episode 1: Guess What, I'm Back!
  4. Episode 4- Parenting Alone
  5. Episode 3: I'm Putting Family First

U.S. Census:

https://www.census.gov/newsroom/press-releases/2022/americas-families-and-living-arrangements.html#:~:text=NOV.,were%20 maintained%20by%20a%20mother.

PEW Research Center:

Smart Assest:




Books Referenced in Articles:





Educational Community for Middle/High School Students


Smart, Single, Unscripted Community


Hey Everyone! This is your host Steph and I am back for the next episode! To avoid confusion I am going to refer to this as Season 2, Episode 2. Sit back ladies and let’s look at today’s topic of the current census statistics and what they mean for Single Mothers. As always, I will link the sources for today’s podcast in the show notes.

Let me kick off the episode with a brief recap of my week as a lone parent.

So, three Sundays ago, my daughter was out playing catch with a baseball. In the process of attempting to make a catch, the ball bounced off the top of her glove and hit her hard in the front of her mouth. She lost a baby tooth, dislocated one of her front adult teeth, and had a heck of a swollen lip that required a trip to the ER. That following Monday, we had to make the drive to her dentist for an Emergency consult to make sure we could save her teeth. Good news, it wasn’t as bad as it looked!

That Thursday she spiked a fever and ended up testing positive for strep. It took me a day to get her prescription because of the Amoxicillin shortage. On May 5th, as we are on day 6 of her antibiotics for strep, I got a phone call from her school saying that she was in the nurse’s office with an injured wrist. The nurse failed to mention the horrible looking bloody knees with gravel still impacted, the scrapes on both elbows, and cut up fingers. Yesterday we spent a whole day traveling over a three hour round trip to follow up dentist appointments and a visit to the orthopedic doctor for more x-rays and a cast. 

If I would not have been told she fell on the blacktop portion of the playground, I seriously would have thought she wrecked a motorcycle and skidded across the asphalt. As the third trip to the doctor’s in less than two weeks, my daughter is now the proud owner of her first ever broken bone, and I am completely flabbergasted as to how she managed to break an arm and injure all of her other limbs at the same time. 

So, that is how things are currently in my world. I can only hope they are going better in yours! 

For today’s topic, what does it mean to be a single mother in America?  I want to open a discussion on where we stand as a country when it comes to single parent households and what that means for us as women. It’s one thing to see the numbers on paper, but those numbers do not paint the whole picture. To draw attention to the statistics,does not  spotlight attention on the very women who are working three jobs to make ends meet. We aren’t seeing the mothers who are putting their children to bed, and then spending two hours doing laundry and cleaning the house. 

We are not seeing the mothers who are putting their children on the school bus, working a shift on their feet all day, only to come home and do homework for college courses for a chance to gain a higher paying job. We are only seeing numbers on paper, and we are all so much more than a government statistic. 

According to the U.S. Census website, 80% of single parent households are ran by mothers. If you consider the statistic that ¼ of American children are living in single parent homes, that is a bit alarming. Not alarming that children are being raised by one parent, but alarming that 80% of the 37.9 million single parent (guardian) households in America, are in fact female ran. The census report goes on to say that 29% of all US households in America are single-person households, up from 13% in 1960.

Back to my statement about this statistic being alarming. Women are still seen as inferior in many career fields and in hourly wages and salary. According to the Pew Research Center (I’ll link the article in the show notes)

“The gender gap in pay has remained relatively stable in the United States over the past 20 years or so. In 2022, women earned an average of 82% of what men earned, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of median hourly earnings of both full- and part-time workers. These results are similar to where the pay gap stood in 2002, when women earned 80% as much as men.”

So, let’s analyze this for a moment. Many women are only earning 82 cents on the dollar that a man makes. Yet, 80% of of the single-parent households are ran by women. This means that many women who are single parents are already worse off than many males who are running single parent households. Now, obviously we would need to investigate further to determine actual income levels of each individual gender’s single household, but I feel comfortable making a blanket statement that many women are not even close to being on the same financial playing field as single-parent males.

I was able to dig around and find some income averages that we can compare together. I’m going to read directly from the stats listed in the article “Where Single Mothers Fare Worse Economically – 2022 Study” 

To give a little background on the article SmartAsset analyzed data for the 50 most populated cities in America to look at four key areas: five-year income change, single mothers’ income compare to single fathers’ income, the poverty rate for single mothers, and how much of a single mother’s income is being paid out to rent.

  • In half the cities we analyzed, the median household income for single mothers decreased from 2014 to 2019. The city with the largest percentage decrease is Austin, Texas (-21.9%). Comparatively, Seattle, Washington has the largest percentage increase (69.4%), with median income for single mothers rising from $41,134 to $69,663.
  • The percentage of single mothers living below the poverty line ranges from 22.8% to 70.8%. San Jose, California has the lowest percentage and has a population that is two times larger than the city with the highest percentage of single mothers living below the poverty line: Atlanta, Georgia.
  • Single mothers earn more than $40,000 in just seven of the 50 cities we analyzed. Those cities are San Jose, California ($57,395); San Francisco, California ($48,785); Seattle, Washington ($69,663); Washington, D.C. ($43,126); Portland, Oregon ($40,960); Raleigh, North Carolina ($40,080) and Virginia Beach, Virginia ($55,389).
  • Single mothers outearn single fathers in just four cities. Single mothers in Virginia Beach, Virginia earn the most relative to single fathers (nearly 12% more). The three other cities where the median income for single mothers is higher than the median income for single fathers are New Orleans, Louisiana; Nashville, Tennessee and Detroit, Michigan. Nationally, single mothers typically earn 65% of what single fathers do.

Since I cannot go over the information of all 50 cities, feel free to click the link in the show notes and look through the data. I did just want to highlight a few cities. First, Atlanta, Georgia. In this city, roughly 71% of single mothers are living at or below the poverty line. 

To get a better idea of what income is considered below the poverty line, I have also included the link to the 2021 federal government definition. The numbers may be different as that was 2 years ago, but the idea is still the same. The income for mothers in Atlanta fell an average of 16% in the past five years, meaning many single mothers in Atlanta are earning only 52% of the income single fathers are earning. Factor in that the lowest rent averages almost 40% of a single mother’s monthly income in that city, and it is very easy to see that we have a recipe for disaster.

What about New York City? Not much better for single mothers there either. While the income average for single mothers has “only” fallen just under 6%, this demographic is still only making 62% of the income single fathers are earning.  Roughly 58% of single mothers in New York City are living at or below the poverty line and many are spending almost 35% of their monthly income on rent. 

So, what does all of this mean and where do we go from here? Great questions but I do not know the answers. I can tell from personal experience that single mothers need more help. Not just financial help, but general help and more options. I know that I could not get a job outside of the home at this current time, because I could not afford daycare or afterschool care, even if those options were available in my location. So, at the moment, I am stuck in the cycle of making more means I would have to spend a whole lot more. 

According to the article, Single Moms vs. Single Dads: Examining the Double Standards of Single Parenthood from March 2023, single mothers are viewed with much more judgment and more scrutiny than single fathers.

We still live in a society in which women are viewed as the nurturing parent. According to assistant professor of sociology at St. Louis’ Washington State University, Caitlyn Collins, Ph.D, raising children is still seen primarily as a woman’s job. 

In the book 1998 book The Cultural Contradictions of Motherhood by Sharon Hays, we see the term Intensive Mothering. This term, according to Hays is the “underlying assumption that the child requires consistent nurture from a single primary caretaker and that the mother is the best person for the job.” She continues by saying, “Additionally intensive mothering defines a ‘good’ mother as one who devotes her full time, energy, and attention to her children. 

If we look at the concept of intensive mothering, how is it possible that single mothers can devote all of their time and attention to their children, while still holding a full-time job, keeping a clean home, helping with homework, scheduling and attending medical and dental check-ups, volunteer for school events and functions, and still manage to have even a slither of time to run errands and do even basic self care?

There is a double standard when it comes to single fathers compared to single mothers. Moms are expected to be able to do it all, and do it all perfectly 100% of the time. Single mothers are often judged for running late for school drop offs, not having available time to attend PTA meetings, and forgetting to return homework to backups. 

Dr. Collins points out that we are far more likely to give single fathers passes for doing these exact same actions. While this may seem like a biased view from women researchers, there are men who share similar thoughts on the double standards of single mothers and single fathers.

For example, New York psychologist Dr. Jeffrey Gardere points out that, “women are expected to be perfect mothers no matter their circumstance, single dads are seen as less capable of parenting and therefore seen as courageous or celebrated for taking on the primary parent role.”

He goes on to say, “Single fathers are given much more sympathy, and they are cut more breaks when it comes to making parenting mistakes.” According to the Founder of Solo Parent Society, Daniel Ortega, single fathers, including himself, have been publicly praised for taking on the role of primary caretaker. He mentions that he has never heard a single mother being praised for her role as a single mother. Thus supporting the concept of a double standard when it comes to single parenting.

Think about how single fathers are portrayed in movies and in television shows. Take the sitcoms Reba and Gilmore Girls, both show single mothers. Reba goes through a series of financial struggles as she adjusts from the role of homemaker to breadwinner. Several episodes are based on her financial struggles all while being expected to befriend and tolerate her ex-husband’s mistress. On the Gilmore Girls, Lorelei is portrayed as established and independent, but is seen with love interest after love interest, proving that a single mother is dependent on a man for happiness. She also experiences financial setbacks which require her to borrow money from her parents, and even her later love interest, Luke. 

What about how single fathers are portrayed? Perhaps one of the most known shows of the 80s and 90s was Full House. A sitcom in which Danny, a tv show host, is widowed and left to raise his three daughters. Does he have to take off work to care for his children? Nope, he moves in with his brother in law and best friend to help raise the children. Eventually, more cast members are added to the mix, including Danny’s co-host and feature sister-in-law Becky. Does Danny ever struggle financially? Of course not, in fact he can not only afford his comfortable SanFrancisco home, but can also afford to make sure his children are always dressed in the latest fashions. 

What about the hilarious 1990;s sitcom The Nanny? Same idea. Rich widow who is in desperate need of help with raising his three children. Max Sheffield is seen as not only an attractive millionaire who lives in a posh New York home, but is powerful and successful. 

Are we seeing a trend here? Single fathers are often portrayed as rich and successful, powerful, and victims of horrible tragedies, who are seen as attractive men in need of a female motherly savior. While women are more likely to be portrayed as teen mothers (Gilmore Girls), mothers with multiple prospective fathers for their children(ie Mamma Mia) and are far less likely to have the same power to pull at the heart strings of viewers as single fathers.

What about all of the statistics that report lower income children are being in many areas of education? Well, I can tell you through research we do not have many affordable options there either. I am fortunate that my child is above grade level in her reading and math, but what about those who aren’t? It only takes a few moments of online searching to discover that most for-profit tutoring companies are NOT geared toward those who are not in the middle or higher class on the socio-economic scale. 

For this very reason, I am launching an online community for middle and high school students so ALL students have access to quality help. I will link that site in the show notes as well. 

But, where do we go from here? I would love to hear your thoughts and ideas. I would also love to hear how other countries are faring and see what single motherhood is like globally. Please email your ideas or stories at steph@smartsingleandunscripted.com or go to the podcast’s home page and leave me a 1 minute voicemail at http://www.smartsingleandunscripted.com to play live on the show!

Until next week, hang in there momma, you are doing a great job!

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