Long-term employment and earnings among low-income families with children

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Self-support through employment has become much more important for low-income mothers and welfare recipients as a result of welfare reform and decline of welfare caseloads. This study used the 2004 longitudinal panels of the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP) to examine longitudinal patterns and trajectories of employment and earnings and to identify factors associated with long-term employment and earnings success among low-income mothers. The results indicate that despite the high proportion of low-income mothers employed, a substantial number were unable to sustain employment and had low earnings. Only 37% of low-income mothers experienced earnings success. Moreover, nearly half of the sample who had successful employment trajectories experienced stagnant or decreasing earnings. Results highlight the importance of considering the level, trend, and stability of employment and earnings in categorizing employment and earnings success. The factors associated with both long-term employment and earnings success included education, work disability, earnings of other adults in the family, homeownership, and state unemployment rates. Results also revealed some differences in factors that determined these two outcomes. The findings point to the importance of advocating for social policies that provide additional income and employment supports for low-income families with children.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)91-101
Number of pages11
JournalChildren and Youth Services Review
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2011


  • Earnings trajectory
  • Labor participation
  • Long-term employment patterns
  • Poverty
  • Social policy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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