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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.

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.”


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 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 polled 2,279 U.S. single moms.

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

See the full results:

Learn more in 11 surprising facts about equal shared parenting

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.

Equally shared parenting research— is it really best for kids?

In fact, a review of 60 peer-reviewed studies by Wake Forest University professor 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 that 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.

In my book, The 50/50 Solution: The Surprisingly Simple Solution that Makes Moms, Dads and Kids Happier When Parents Split (Sourcebooks, March 26, 2024), I show how this law resulted in lower rates of family court filings for matters including domestic violence.

Cover of The 50/50 Solution book by Emma Johnson.

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, 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.


The Single Mom Income and Time-Sharing Survey has been featured in these news outlets:

TIME: This Mom is Working to Help Divorced Moms Achieve Financial Independence

Elle: I Thought I Won My Divorce. Then I Realized Standard Custody Is Court-Sanctioned Sexism

CNBC: Equal Pay Day: Single moms are hit the hardest by the gender pay gap — and custody arrangements can matter

Parents: Single Moms Who Share Parenting Tend to Earn More Money

Forbes: Study Finds That Equal Custody Arrangements Narrows The Gender Pay Gap

Fox Business Radio: Single Mom Proponent Says 50/50 Co-Parenting Helps Women Feel Better, Earn More Single Moms' Custody Arrangement Matters When Earning Money

Red Tricycle: Single Moms with This Arrangement Likely to Earn More: Study

Little Things: I Fought For Less Time With My Kids And I Think Other Single Moms Should, Too


I’m mostly shocked this is such a surprise to other women and other single mothers. I had sole physical and financial responsibility for 8+ years, going above and beyond to help make him involved in his children’s lives again- and with just a 80/20 split my life and bank account have increased in pretty remarkable ways. Being self employed, just having a few nights a month where I *know* I will have scheduled time to myself (which, I mostly spend cleaning and working, I understand “self care”, but also find most women don’t seem to understand what it takes to juggle a home and business by yourself with no family or resources) which has been a massive evolvement for my mental health. I can’t image what kind of mountains I could move with 50/50 custody- which I’m encouraging as our goal, unfortunately my “coparent” isn’t interested in that.

America favors women/wives my x has lied under oath, has tried to alienate me from our kids, broke the law, and let our daughter get sexually abused. She still got primary custody, but what can we as me. Expect we live in the USA a land of Liberty and justice for all yes all of WOMEN, WOMEN, and more WOMEN !!!!! sad very very sad but true very very true!!!!!!

My ex and I divorced about three and a half years ago. As a super involved father, I fought tooth and nail to make sure that I got the kids 50%+ of the time. My ex worked before we divorced so the responsibilities were always split 50/50 with me normally picking up a bulk of the stuff not during my working hours and weekends. I now have the kids Wed, Thurs, Sat, and Most of Sunday. I have done the tracking of hours with each parent and I have them about 15-20 WAKING hours more each week than their mother. I love it, and would take them full time. I wish more split families did the rotation we do, as our children are very well adjusted and see both of us almost every day.

What I don’t like is that I still have to pay child support even though I have them more then the custodial parent does. This means that I pay for their food, shelter, clothing over there and then again here. Now before you jump down my throat on this one, let’s look logically. Because I pay so much support each month, it will prevent me from ever buying another house while my children are young, but their mother can afford it with what I pay her. i am stuck in an apartment while she’s got a house to welcome them to and build long term wealth. Doesn’t seem quite fair does it? I am all for things being equitable, but financially women make out in divorce better than men. I paid to have my wife cheat and leave a young family, and continue to double pay to raise my kids.

If we as a society want to make sure both parents are involved and both parents share responsibility 50/50, then we need to do away with or overhaul the maintenance and child support calculations and laws.

Unfortunately surly, what I have found is that too many women don’t want to earn more money, they prefer to receive more money by NOT working. This may seem ok’d fashioned but a lit if this still exists, America has the most severe gender issues of the developed world and the sugar baby syndrome is evidence of that.

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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