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Single Moms Struggling Worldwide, Particularly in U.S.
World

Single Moms Struggling Worldwide, Particularly in U.S.

by Steve Crabtree and Sofia Kluch
Single Moms Struggling Worldwide, Particularly in U.S.

Story Highlights

  • Almost half of single mothers worldwide (44%) struggled to afford food in the past year
  • In the U.S., 40% of single mothers struggled to afford food; 27% could not afford shelter

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Worldwide, Gallup finds that single mothers are more likely than the rest of the population to be struggling to put food on their table and shelter over their head. For example, across 148 countries, 44% of single women aged 18 to 60 with children younger than 15 in their household -- a proxy for single mothers -- say they have had trouble affording food for their family in the past year, compared with 28% of other adults.

But the disparities between these single women and the rest of the population are even larger in some countries, including the U.S. Single mothers in the U.S. are significantly more likely than other Americans to say there have been times in the past 12 months when they did not have enough money for food (40% vs. 17%, respectively) or adequate shelter (27% vs. 14%).

Countries With Biggest Gaps for Single Moms: Afford Food
Have there been times in the past 12 months when you did not have enough money to buy food that you or your family needed?
Single women, children in household All other residents Gap
% Yes % Yes Pct. pts.
Canada 35 10 25
U.S. 40 17 23
Poland 36 13 23
Belgium 35 12 23
Australia 33 10 23
Countries in which single women with children under 15 in their household struggle most compared with other residents
Gallup World Poll, 2014-2018

Countries With Biggest Gaps for Single Moms: Afford Shelter
Have there been times in the past 12 months when you did not have enough money to provide adequate shelter or housing for you and your family?
Single women, children in household All other residents Gap
% Yes % Yes Pct. pts.
Lithuania 36 18 18
Estonia 36 20 16
France 30 16 14
U.S. 27 14 13
N. Macedonia 24 11 13
Countries in which single women with children under 15 in their household struggle most compared with other residents
Gallup World Poll, 2014-2018

These findings are based on five iterations of the Gallup World Poll, conducted between 2014 and 2018. The World Poll gathers data from more than 140 countries and areas annually, representing more than 99% of the global population.

It's important to note that the countries listed above are not those in which single women with children are most likely to struggle overall; as would be expected, those countries are in the world's poorest regions.

Across 40 sub-Saharan African countries, for example, 65% of single women with children in the household say there have been times in the past 12 months when they did not have enough money for food. But this figure reflects the general poverty of populations throughout the region, rather than circumstances specific to single mothers; among all other residents in sub-Saharan Africa, the figure is only somewhat lower, at 61%.

In Latin America, single women with children are substantially more likely than other residents to say they've struggled to provide food. However, the difference isn't as great as it is in the U.S./Canada and Australia/New Zealand, where such women stand out for their likelihood to experience hardship in societies with a higher baseline level of economic security. In other economically developed regions, a variety of economic and societal factors -- such as wealth distribution and public welfare programs -- may help explain the smaller gap between single women with children and other residents.

Single Moms Worldwide Struggling to Afford Food
Have there been times in the past 12 months when you did not have enough money to buy food that you or your family needed?
Single women, children in household All other residents Gap
% Yes % Yes Pct. pts.
World 44 28 16
Sub-Saharan Africa 65 61 4
Latin America 45 34 11
Southeast Asia 43 39 4
U.S./Canada 43 17 26
Middle East/North Africa 37 38 -1
South Asia 36 34 2
Post-Soviet Eurasia 36 26 10
Australia/New Zealand 35 10 25
Eastern Europe 31 19 12
East Asia 19 11 8
Western Europe 18 9 9
Gallup World Poll, 2014-2018

Implications

Single women raising children often face financial challenges regardless of where they live in the world. But Gallup data suggest the U.S. is among the countries where they struggle most relative to the rest of the country's population. Many single mothers in the U.S. live in low-income communities with limited childcare options and few opportunities to find good jobs.

Prior research has shown that such conditions often keep single parents focused on day-to-day subsistence, with little chance to consider longer-term strategies for upward mobility. Some observers, including the authors of a 2017 report from Brookings' The Hamilton Project, conclude that public investments in childcare and other strategies for removing barriers to education and job opportunities for single mothers could help many improve their financial situation while boosting women's overall participation in the labor market.

For more complete methodology and specific survey dates, please review Gallup's Country Data Set details.

Learn more about how the Gallup World Poll works.


Gallup https://news.gallup.com/poll/286268/single-moms-struggling-worldwide-particularly.aspx
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