Who are single moms today?
Who do they really represent in today's society?
- Single mom statistics
- Single moms are overwhelmingly doing it all alone
- Related articles on single moms
- More gender equality at home — including in separated families
- Do children of single parents have more problems?
These single mom statistics, facts and figures might (okay, will!) surprise you!
Single mom statistics
There are 10 million single mother-lead families in the United States . This is 3x the number in 1960. In addition:
- 25% of families are headed by single moms — or, put another way: one in four mothers are not married (keep in mind that parents who co-habit or are in a relationship are conted as ‘single' by the Census bureau.' .
- 40% of babies born in the United States are born to single mothers. 
Millennial single mom statistics
- 57% of babies born to millennials were out of wedlock.
- 64% of millennial moms reported at least one birth out of wedlock.
More educated millennials are having babies outside of marriage. Of millennial moms who have babies outside of marriage, 67% have some college education, and 32% have four or more years of higher education. 
Older single mom statistics
- 48% jump in births to unmarried women aged 35-39 (2007-12)
- 29% jump in births to unmarried moms aged 40-44
Single moms' education and income
58% of single moms have attended college or have at least a bachelor’s degree 
Of millennial moms who have babies outside of marriage, 67% have some college education, and 32% have four or more years of higher education. 
What percent of single mothers live in poverty?
A 2018 Pew Research Center analysis found the poverty rate by household head was:
- 30% of solo mothers
- 17% of solo fathers
- 16% of families headed by a cohabiting couples
- 8% of married couple families
From the report:
Cohabiting parents are younger, less educated and less likely to have ever been married than solo parents. At the same time, solo parents have fewer children on average than cohabiting parents and are far more likely to be living with one of their own parents (23% vs. 4%) …
Solo moms are more than twice as likely to be black as cohabiting moms (30% vs. 12%), and roughly four times as likely as married moms (7% of whom are black). Four-in-ten solo mothers are white, compared with 58% of cohabiting moms and 61% of married moms.
There are virtually no racial and ethnic differences in the profiles of solo and cohabiting fathers.
What country has the highest rate of single mothers?
A December, 2019 Pew Research Center study of 130 countries and territories finds the United States has the world’s highest rate of children living in single-parent households, at 23%. By comparison:
- Russia 18% of children live in single parent-headed households
- Uganda 10%
- Germany 12%
- Japan 7%
- Mexico 7%
- India 5%
- China 4%
- Worldwide: an average of 7% of children under age 18 live with a single parent
Single moms are overwhelmingly doing it all alone
- 49% of custodial parents have child support agreements (informal or formal), but only 45% received all child support owed.
- The median sum due is less than $400 per month. 
- Of fathers who live apart from their children, only 22% of dads see their kids more than once per week. 
What is driving single mom trends?
There are 1.2 million divorces in the United States each year. 
Traditional nuclear families with two married heterosexual parents are now the minority of U.S. The rise of single motherhood is the largest influence on this trend — followed by gay families, multigenerational families and . 
46% millennials and 44% GenXers say “Marriage is becoming obsolete.” 
Related articles on single moms
Not all of those mothers were single: Many were living with partners.
Among high school graduates, depicted in the chart below, for instance, 28 percent of children were born to cohabiting couples.
Combine that with the 41 percent of children born to married couples, then most babies were born into two-parent households.
Their relationships fare better than parents who aren’t living together at all, but frequently the mother ends up raising a child alone. 
Single motherhood by age, race and class
“Once largely limited to poor women and minorities, motherhood without marriage has settled deeply into middle America.
The fastest growth in the last two decades has occurred among white women in their 20s who have some college education but no four-year degree. Among mothers of all ages, a majority — 59 percent in 2009 — are married when they have children.
But the surge of births outside marriage among younger women — nearly two-thirds of children in the United States are born to mothers under 30 — is both a symbol of the transforming family and a hint of coming generational change.” 
“Single parent households exist in a different socioeconomic pool than married households.
Single mothers earn incomes that place them well below married mothers in the income ladder.
According to Pew, married mothers earned a median family income of $80,000 in 2011, almost four times more than families led by a single mom.
This is likely a consequence of the lower educational qualifications of single mothers, as well as the fact that they are younger and more likely to be black or Hispanic.
Married mothers tend to be older and are disproportionately white and college-educated.” 
Marriage and parenthood are no longer linked
“Throughout history, marriage and parenthood have been linked milestones on the journey to adulthood.
But for the young adults of the Millennial Generation, these social institutions are becoming delinked and differently valued.
Today’s 18- to 29-year-olds value parenthood far more than marriage.”
Black dads spend more time, and more quality time with their children than any other race
Considering the fact that “black fatherhood” is a phrase that is almost always accompanied by the word “crisis” in U.S. society, it’s understandable that the CDC’s results seem innovative.
But in reality, the new data builds upon years of research that’s concluded that hands-on parenting is similar among dads of all races, and the CDC found that black dads are more involved with their kids on a daily basis than dads from other racial groups.
There are more single moms because it is more acceptable to be a single mom
Single moms are growing in number, in part, because women have more financial opportunities, and can more comfortably afford to have children without the full-time financial support of the children's father. At the same time, the rise in single motherhood has severely lessened the stigma of being an unmarried mom, a fact that has been attributed to the drop in abortion rates in recent decades.
The rise and general acceptance of single motherhood across all demographics (young, African American and Hispanic moms make up the majority of this trend, but older, more affluent single-moms-by-choice is the fastest-growing segment of the single-mom population), is part of a larger trend of redefining what family and healthy family means. It was a few years ago that headlines announced that the married, heterosexual parent household with children is now the statistical minority in the United States. Today, about a quarter of married couples who live with children under age 18 are in these Leave it to Beaver families where only the father works — down 47 percent in 1970.
While gay, multi-generational, blended and adoptive families are on the rise, single-mom-led households made up the bulk of that new majority of “non-traditional” families (enter eye-rolling of many, including this writer!). Paired with news that young adults increasingly find marriage an “obsolete” institution, this made sense. However, this new acceptance of family does not preclude romantic partnerships, as most Millennial moms are in committed romantic partnerships, even if they are not legally married.
“When marriage was the near-universal norm in American society, a pregnancy out of wedlock pushed a couple toward one of four choices: shotgun wedding; adoption; abortion; or single motherhood, in that order of social acceptability.
The result was a society in which both abortion and single motherhood were rare.
In the decade after 1965, both women and men claimed greater sexual autonomy for themselves. The shotgun marriage seemed an increasingly outrageous imposition to meet increasingly irrelevant social expectations. After 1970, adoption of native-born American children by non-related parents rapidly dwindled. Yet outright single motherhood remained comparatively unusual for middle-class Americans, and especially for white middle-class Americans. The abortion spike between 1975 and 1990 reflected a new ranking of acceptable responses to an unmarried pregnancy: abortion, single parenthood, shotgun wedding, and adoption, in that order.”
More gender equality at home — including in separated families
Today's expectations of the role that men and women will play in parenting is different from older moms. Millennial mothers are most likely to have children with men who are more inclined to share household and childcare duties. To wit: a 1982 study found 43 percent of fathers never changed a diaper. By 2000 another study showed this figure had fallen to 3 percent.
Fatherhood, as we know, goes far beyond keeping little butts clean. While the bulk of care of children still falls on women, a Boston College Center for Work & Family study found that 66 percent of Millennial dads believe that child care should be shared equally (even if just 29 percent conceded that that work is actually shared equally in their family), and the number of hours dads today spend with their kids tripled to 7 hours weekly in 2015 from 1965, while they spend an average of nine hours on housework, up from four hours half a century earlier.
These trends are reflected in separated families, where the number of hours that dads spend with children has increased regardless of whether the dad is a part of the same household. While in 80 percent of custody cases, courts rule to give mothers primary residence, there is a huge new movement towards shared parenting, in which it is presumed that both parents have equal legal custody and approximately half time with each parent in the event of a separation. In fact, in 2017 alone, shared parenting legislation has been introduced in 25 states, and counting. This makes sense, as there are 60 peer-reviewed studies that find that shared parenting — in which each parent has the kids about 40 percent of the time — is best for children.
Shared parenting is also great for moms. After all, if with more parenting and time support from another parent means more time to nurture other parts of your life — including your career. After all, we can't have equality at work if we don't have equality in your family — regardless of what your family looks like.
Millennial moms are more comfortable with being a working parent
The youngest generation of mothers are redefining what it means to be a parent, spouse, professional and citizen. We know that young mothers are the most formally educated in all of history, and are more likely to work for pay outside the home than their mothers or grandmothers, wielding far more financial, professional and political power than ever before.
Inclusive of this fact, 67 percent of Millennial moms are college educated.
This is a group of women who feel less guilty about all the work/family/life conflict that weighs down older generations. A Pew survey found that 57 percent of Millennial moms feel they are doing a “very good job” at parenting, compared with 48 percent of Gen X moms and 41 percent of Boomer moms.
Fathers are more hands-on, even though dads are less likely to live with their children
“The role of fathers in the modern American family is changing in important and countervailing ways.
Fathers who live with their children have become more intensely involved in their lives, spending more time with them and taking part in a greater variety of activities.
However, the share of fathers who are residing with their children has fallen significantly in the past half century.” 
Do children of single parents have more problems?
“Children growing up with a single mother are exposed to more family instability and complexity, they have more behavior problems, and they are less likely to finish high school or attend college than children raised by both of their parents.
On the other hand, these differences in children’s behavior and success might well be traceable to differences that would exist even if the biological father were present.”
Related documentary and books on shared parenting:
Recommended shared parenting documentary: Divorce Corp
Blend, The Secret to Co-Parenting and Creating a Balanced Family, By: Mashonda Tifrere
Co-parenting with a Toxic Ex: What to Do When Your Ex-Spouse Tries to Turn the Kids Against You, By: by Amy J. L. Baker, PhD and Paul R Fine, LCSW
Divorce Poison: How to Protect Your Family from Bad-mouthing and Brainwashing, By: Dr. Richard A. Warshak
1. United States Census Bureau. “https://www.census.gov” retrieved 10.6.2017.
2. The Rise Of Single Fathers – A ninefold increase since 1960: Pew Research Center. July 2, 2013.
3. John's Hopkins University. February 2, 2012.
4. National Vital Statistics Reports – Births: Final Data for 2015. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2015.
5. A Tale of Two Fathers. More are active, but more are absent: Pew. Gretchen Livingston, Kim Parker. June 15, 2011.
6. It's no longer a “Leave It to Beaver' world for American families – but it wasn't back then, either: Pew Research Center. December 30, 2015.
7. For Millenials, Parenthood Trumps Marriage: Pew Research Center. March 9, 2011.
8. For Millennials, Out-of-Wedlock Childbirth Is the Norm: Slate. June 23, 2014.
9. Family Instability and Complexity after a Nonmarital Birth:
Outcomes for Children in Fragile Families: Princeton University. May 22, 2009.
10. For Women Under 30, Most Births Occur Outside Marriage: NYTimes.
11. Unmarried Childbearing: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2015.
12. The Mysterious and Alarming Rise of Single Parenthood in America: The Atlantic. Aparna Mathur, Hao Fu, Peter Hansen. September 3, 2013.
13. The Myth of The Absent Black Father: ThinkProgress. Tara Culp-Ressler. January 26, 2014.
14. Why Is The Abortion Rate Falling?: The Atlantic. David Frum. Dec 1, 2014.
15. EducationNext.org: Was Moynihan Right? What happens to children of unmarried mothers: EducationNext. Sarah Mclanahan, Christopher Jencks. 2015.
Wealthysinglemommy.com founder Emma Johnson is an award-winning business journalist, activist and author. A former Associated Press reporter and MSN Money columnist, Emma has appeared on CNBC, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, NPR, TIME, The Doctors, MONEY, O, The Oprah Magazine. Winner of Parents magazine’s “Best of the Web” and a New York Observer “Most Eligible New Yorker,” her #1 bestseller, The Kickass Single Mom (Penguin), was a New York Post Must Read. A popular speaker, Emma presented at the United Nations Summit for Gender Equality. Emma's Top Single Mom Resources.