Single mom statistics (prepare to have your mind blown)

single mom statistics

Who are single moms today? These single mom statistics might surprise you:

There are 10 million single mother-lead families in the United States (Census). 3x the number in 1960.

25% of families are headed by single moms. (Pew).

40% of babies born in the United States are born to single mothers. (Pew)



Millennial single mom statistics

57% of babies born to millennials were out of wedlock. (John’s Hopkins)

64% of millennial moms reported at least one birth out of wedlock. (John’s Hopkins)

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.  (John’s Hopkins)


Older single mom statistics

48% jump in births to unmarried women aged 35-39 2007-12 (CDC)

29% jump in births to unmarried moms aged 40-44 (CDC)

While the rate of babies born to single mothers has declined slightly, there is a notable rise in babies born to single moms by choice – women who tend to be older, more educated, higher income. (CDC)


Single moms’ education and income

58% of single moms have attended college or have at least a bachelor’s degree (Pew)

Of millennial moms who have babies outside of marriage, 67% have some college education, and 32% have four or more years of higher education.  (John’s Hopkins)

32% earn $40,000+ (Census)

10% earn $80,000+  (Census)


Single moms are overwhelmingly doing it all alone:

51% of custodial parents have child support agreements (informal or formal), but only 41% received all child support owed. (Census)

Of fathers who live apart from their children, only 22% of dads see their kids more than once per week. (Pew)


What is driving single mom trends?

There are 1.2 million divorces in the United States each year. (Census)

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 . (Pew)

46% millennials and 44% GenXers say “Marriage is becoming obsolete.” (Pew)




Related reading

Slate: For Millennials, Out-Of-Wedlock Birth is the Norm

New York Times: For Women Under 30, Most Births Occur Outside Marriage 

CDC Unmarried Childbearing Statistics 

The Atlantic: The Mysterious and Alarming Rise of Single Parenthood in America 

Pew: For Millennials, Parenthood Trumps Marriage 

Think Progress: The Myth of the Absent Black Father

Pew: A Tale of Two Fathers

The Atlantic: Why Is the Abortion Rate Falling? Ironically, the socially conservative pro-life movement has made its peace with unwed parenthood as an alternative to abortion.


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28 thoughts on “Single mom statistics (prepare to have your mind blown)

  1. I see these statistics yet wonder why there continues to be so much stigmatizing of single mothers. I honestly never thought much about it until my husband I separated 11 months ago and I eventually moved to another state with my kids to finish a graduate program. I have found myself reading all sorts of stuff about single motherhood and frankly I’m shocked at some of the negative stereotypes associated with a woman raising her kids herself. I am well-educated and working on a second Masters degree. I worked several years before having my kids and taking time off to be with them while they were young. I saved, planned and paid off student loans. My husband found greener pastures and I was faced with either accepting his behavior towards me and my kids or extricating myself from the situation. There have been lots of consequences for me which I am unhappy about but I never thought I’d encounter some of the social stigma that society seems to project towards a single mother. Frequently women become single parents because a spouse walks out, engages in infidelity, abuse, death. And those unmarried women who experience an unplanned pregnancy seem to be damned if they do damned if they don’t based on some of the deeply embedded social beliefs in this country. While you’d think we’d be cheering on a woman who decides to continue the pregnancy and make the sacrifices to raise a child we have segments of the population criticizing her or blaming her for all sorts of social ills. And if she doesn’t choose to continue the pregnancy and raise a child solo well we all get to hear about that topic in the news just about everyday. I can only hope as we see more single mothers successfully raising their children society will become more accepting and respectful of these nontraditional families. What I found even more interesting was an article regarding while we demonize single mothers we tend to martyr single dads. He is some sort of novelty and must really care about his kids. I found myself guilty of some of this myself I realized when I would extend extra credit to a single dad than a single mom. I am now more aware of how these rather archaic attitudes are deeply ingrained in many of us and its not until I find myself transitioning from nuclear family to a non-traditional family experience that I’ve become cognizant of these perceptions. So I hope stats and websites like this help us to change such anachronistic views of single mothers and nontraditional family structures. Maybe they’re more the norm than we’ve been led to believe for a long time.

    1. I completely agree with everything you wrote, but in the last 6 months- year I have started to notice some big changes …. Lifetime auditioned me for a show called Millionaire Single Moms, brands are reaching out to me in an effort to connect with single moms in a non-patronizing way. Things are changing, slowly but surely!

    2. Because statistically children with absentee fathers do not perform as well in society? How is that not clear to you? Wanna know what every sociopath, career criminal and hardcore addict have in common? No father figure. Go figure that Asian Americans out perform every demographic in every aspect of society, their unstable/non-traditional family and absentee father rate is only like 17%

    3. These statistics are insanely biased. Based on these same percentages 58% of single mothers make less than 35k. We all know that is far from enough to raise a family with more than one child. Also, 67% have some college education means nothing. Who ever got a job saying I almost have a degree? I almost qualify for this job? It just means that 67% Don’t have a college degree and are getting the same jobs you can get with a high school or associates degree. Hence the less than 35k a year issue. These statistics also fail to mention how children from one parent families tend to do worse in school. Which pretty much determines if and where they go to college and what they do afterwards. Also, it’s a very different thing to have been married, have an education and started a family with the proper foundation but eventually get divorced or widowed than it is to get pregnant out of wedlock. If your partner isn’t ready to marry you they aren’t ready to have children with you. Knowing the uphill struggle to raise a family as a single parent. Why would you get out of your way to do so? Note, I have nothing against single parents that are divorced or widow. Life happens. I just don’t think it should be glorified. It seems as if women are getting out of their way have children out of wedlock and putting themselves and their children in an unnecessarily difficult situation.

      1. You did your math wrong its 68% who make less than 40k, the 10% who make more than 80k are included in the 32% that make more than 40k.

      2. Sorry— I have 2 Master Degrees, Homeowner, clear WELL into 6 figures, and have great role models for my african american son who is now 7. Additionally, I have 3 educated brothers ( 2 which are married) and parents that live in 50 minute proximity. Parents who have been married for 54 years. So with that said, I made a decision at 31 that I was so tired of dating these shiftless dudes that had a great Resume and no moral fabric. YEs, they were black men, educated , some highly educated– but again no sense of wanting to settle down with a decent educated sister like myself. THEREFORE, i spent the following 2 years after my 31st birthday deciding to focus on who would be a great father. Long story short.. my son is now 7 , he’ s dad I started dated in the interim after the birth, and we just broke up a few months ago… BOTTOM LINE…. experiencing motherhood was my initial focus and was the prize. Anything after was a bonus. I love the idea of a nuclear family— but it did not happen as of yet. You can get married at 90…try birthing a baby at 90… I think NOT. I am continuing to ENJOY Motherhood. ( My son loves piano, soccer, tennis, golf, advanced math classes and is reading entire grade above his current grade). MY MOTTO IS ‘ just let people do whatever they want to do– it is their life not mine. Only GOD can judge you. Struggle— please my support system ( parents and brothers) the best husband I never had. LOL!!! I’m still hopeful on positive and rewarding marriage NOT just any marriage will do. Hats off to dedicated single parents ( moms and dads) and all dedicated parents for that matter. If parents stopping parenting our society is DOOMED.

    4. 70% of drop-outs, and 70% of teen suicides come from single mother homes. Wade Horn, “Why There Is No Substitute For Parents,” IMPRIMIS 26, N0. 6, June 1997

      70% of runaways, 70% of juvenile delinquents, and 70% of Child murderers, come from single mother homes. Richard E. Redding, “It’s Really About Sex”, Duke Univ. Journal of Gender Law and Policy, Jan.1, 2008

      63% of all youth suicides,

      70% of all teen pregnancies,

      71% of all adolescent chemical/substance abusers,

      80% of all prison inmates, and

      90% of all homeless and runaway children, came from single mother homes.

      Bob Ray Sanders, “Hey Y’all, Let’s Fill The Hall (Of Fame), Ft. Worth Star Telegram, Oct.28,2007

      1. +Ace I’m probably better off than you though. 210lb male mountain of muscle, persevered despite being raised mostly by a single mother.

  2. The 22% statement about fathers seeing their kids is not the whole story and miss represented on this page. The 22% is only of the population of divorced fathers who at no point during the year habe lived with their child. So fathers who get nights or weekends, or summers with their kids are not part of the population that the 22% is taken from.

    1. A simple reading of the paper, 73% of all fathers have atleast co residence with their children. That leaves 27% of fathers that do not have co residence. So that means 6% of all fathers see there kids atleast once a week and 21% of fathers do not see their atleast once a week

      1. Correct it is fathers who live apart from their childrent for the entire year. Fathers who share a residence with their children at any time during the year are not part of this population on this survey. The paper explicitly defines what populations were surveyed for what questions.

  3. I was raised by a single mother of three. I was the oldest and shouldered a lot of responsibility caring for my siblings. I was the classic poster-child for the latch-key kid of the 80s as a GenXer. My mother was divorced due to my dad’s choice to be unfaithful. My dad also chose to be a deadbeat and fled the country to avoid alimony and child support. He started a second family in Panama and never reached out to his first family, us. Growing up was hard, making ends meet harder, we went through some government aid, and we experienced homelessness when my mother was between jobs. The silver lining was qualifying for aid in addition to receiving merit-based aid. Contrary to some statistics, my siblings and I all went to college, all graduated, all married and are now raising our kids in two-parent homes.

    I honestly do not know what is harder today: kids growing up without any father figure (like I did) or growing up in a custodial ping pong situation. When there is a dad somewhat present, it makes it harder for some kids to apply for college aid, yet that does not mean the financial support is consistent. Once a parent is no longer legally obligated to fund a kid, is it likely that the parent will continue to do so? Some do and some do not. Some divorced moms have to wrangle continuously for economic support or custody. It is a never-ending source of stress and instability.

    I can see where some millenials choose to avoid dependence and constant fighting and go it alone. I do not condone having children on purpose without a network of parents, extended family or community support, but I can understand that sometimes older women without the prospect of this network might choose to experience motherhood, especially if they can financially support themselves.

    Marriage never offers guaranties of a happy and peaceful life for anyone but I think we have forgotten that the purpose of marriage was to offer stability for children. When that stability is threatened by domestic abuse, etc. it gives marriage a bad rap and people might as well damn marriage as an archaic and useless social convention. BUT, if we understand marriage to be based on trust, respect, commitment, self-discipline and selflessness, you might even get to understand marriage as something built on deep friendship and even love. Those are all qualities we try to teach our children and we hope our children experience. That is what we honor most in marriage and makes it something to aspire to experience.

    But marriage takes effort and sadly that is in short supply. Raising children takes effort and it takes a village, as they say. And while you can find those positive qualities without a marriage certificate, the commitment to children includes providing for their material needs and, yes, a marriage certificate is a legal document that is meant to provide some legal and financial securities. But marriage should not be considered a business deal which is what we see too often from Hollywood. Pre-nups or not, we tend to focus on the dollar amounts gained from the transactions of a divorce. If that is the point of marriage (making a good return of investment), then it adds impetus to avoid marriage “deals”.

    Returning to the point, regardless of what the statistics say about single mothers, I think we simply have to extend a helping hand, when wanted and needed, to the single mother for the sake of the kids. That is hard to do because many single moms have their dignity and do not want handouts; some do not need them. However, the kids do not have to be statistics of poverty. Share a lunch, share a ticket, share some time, share the love.

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  5. Yeah, I have to agree with some of these other commenters. You’re really distorting the findings of the John Hopkins report entirely.

    Your words: 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

    John’s Hopkins Report:” Figure 1 – continued.
    C. Women with one to three years of college completed (27% OF ALL BIRTHS).”

    You quoted three times that amount at 67% … Is blindly spewing empowering numbers really portraying a great image for a wealthySMARTsinglemommy?

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