Single moms with 50/50 co-parenting schedules earn more, survey of 2,279 finds

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The more parenting time equality single moms share with their kids’ dads, the higher their income.

This was the biggest finding of Single Mom Income and Time-Sharing Survey, which polled 2,270 single mothers about their employment, income, time-sharing and related feelings.

The survey sought to understand the connection between single moms’ parenting schedules and the women’s income, attitudes about work, parenting and wellbeing.

Problem:

Mothers overall suffer a pay gap of 29%, earning an average of 71 cents for every $1 earned by a dad — or an average of $16,000 less per year, according to the National Women’s Law Center. 

This motherhood penalty is dramatically worse for single mothers at 35%. According to Pew Research, single moms with a household of three earn just $26,000 per year on average, compared with $40,000 per year for single dads.

Gender income inequity is being exasperated today as recent job loss is worse for women overall, mothers especially as they struggle to manage work and child care, and single moms most of all, as the majority of unpartnered mothers have the vast majority of child responsibilities compared with fathers.

Through this blog and related platforms, I have interacted with hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of single mothers over the past decade. Anecdotally, it was evident to me that moms who have more equality in their parenting schedules have an easier time building their careers and income than those who have majority responsibility for their children. Meanwhile, many moms who have their kids in their physical care the majority or 100% of the time believe they could grow financially with more parenting equality.

This makes intuitive sense, as studies of married mothers find a correlation between equality at home and their professional success. Yet I could not find any data on single moms, parental time-sharing and income.

So, I set out to collect the data myself. The Single Mom Income and Parenting-Time Survey is 2,279 U.S. single moms.

The big takeaway: More equality in time-sharing means higher earning for single moms

Anne-Marie Slaughter, CEO of New America said this about the work:

“Emma Johnson is focusing on an important and almost completely overlooked piece of the complex gender equality puzzle. She is absolutely right to point out that while social norms around equal parenting may be slow to change, reforming laws and practices governing divorced couples could make a big and beneficial difference for single mothers and fathers relatively quickly.”

See the full results:

Single-mom survey highlights

More equality in time-sharing single mothers have with their children’s father correlates with higher income and more reports of feeling proud of their parenting.

A few survey highlights include:

  • Moms with a 50/50 parenting schedule are 54% more likely to earn at least $100,000 annually than moms whose kids are with them most of the time (with “visits” with the dad). 
  • Moms with a 50/50 parenting schedule are more than three times (325%) more likely to earn $100,000 than single moms with 100% time with their kids.
  • Moms with 50/50 parenting schedules are more than twice as likely to earn $65,000+ than those with majority time, and nearly three-times as likely to earn that sum than moms with 100% parenting time.  
  • 13%, or 1 in 8, single moms have a 50/50 arrangement — and 98% of them are content with it.
  • 51% of single moms surveyed have their children 100% of the time.
  • Equally shared parenting is popular with single moms: The majority of single moms, 53%, either already enjoy a 50/50 schedule or wish they had it. 
  • 9 in 10 single moms say they could earn more money if they had more equality in their parenting time
  • Moms with 50/50 parenting time are 34% more likely (23% vs. 15%) to say they feel “awesome and proud” of being a mom compared with moms who care for their kids 100% of the time.
  • About 70% of moms who have their kids 100% or majority time feel parenting gets in the way of self-care, vs just 50% of moms with 50/50 schedules.

About single moms in the United States:

There are 20 million single-parent led households with children in the United States, 16 million of whom are single mothers. More and more younger women are having children outside of “traditional” families, with 64% of millennial moms having at least one child outside of marriage (Johns Hopkins). 

Single mom statistics

While the vast majority of children of separated and divorced families spend most or all of their time with their mothers, there is a growing shift towards more equally shared parenting. Our culture is slowly but surely moving towards more egalitarian custody arrangements, while courts and policy are also making incremental, positive changes fueled by a growing body of research that finds that a 50/50 schedule benefits children.

Shared-parenting research— is it really best for kids?

In fact, a review of 60 peer-reviewed studies by Wake Forest University’s Linda Nielsen found that children fare best when kids spend approximately equal time with both parents. Children who grow up in families with unequal parenting schedules are at greater risk of incarceration, addiction, poorer mental and physical health and academic outcomes, and lifetime employment and relationship challenges. 

In 2017, Kentucky became the first state in the country to pass an equally shared parenting law, one which creates a rebuttable presumption of equal parenting time for separated and divorced parents. That means that when you split in Kentucky, time with the kids is equally split in half — and the onus is on one parent to argue the other should have less time.

Within two years of the law going into effect, the number of family court filings in Kentucky dropped by more than 11%, and the number of family court filings involving domestic violence dropped by 4%. The law has been endorsed by Kentuckians Against Domestic Violence.

About the single-mom survey

The Single Mom Income and Time-Sharing Survey was conducted via Survey Monkey. Respondents were recruited from Wealthy Single Mommy’s social media, search traffic and email audiences, during the summer of 2020. Respondents came from all 50 U.S. states.

A total of 2,279 participants were asked about their age, race, location and number of children, as well as income, employment, time-sharing arrangements and related questions.

For media inquiries, please email [email protected]

About Emma Johnson:

Emma is founder of award-winning WealthySingleMommy.com, the world’s largest platform for single moms, and the bestselling author of The Kickass Single Mom (Penguin). As an expert on single motherhood and gender equality, she has been featured in hundreds of media outlets including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Doctors, NPR and more. Emma has spoken about equally shared parenting at the United Nations, at Google, and recently in testimony before the Georgia Legislature’s Judiciary Committee on behalf of her organization, Moms for Shared Parenting. Learn more about Emma, and see media appearances here. She lives in New York City.

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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.

2 Comments

When she-THEY- share parenting she’s not a single mom !!! Might be a single women at home but not single as a parent !!!

Jean-Marc Bessette, i.s., dg, fondateur et très fier père avec une garde conjointe
Papa pour toujours, les Enfants d’abord…

I agree with this completely.

50/50 parenting is much better for kids and moms.

This should be a norm.

I grew up without a father.

Financially and emotionaly he was absent.

His wife & new family was more important than his ex-kids.

This did not affect me negatively because my mother was a great mom.

But my mother “could have a much better life” if my ex-father shared parenthood.

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