Patterns and correlates of involuntary unemployment and underemployment in single-mother families

Chi Fang Wu, Mary Keegan Eamon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Economic downturns, trends in the increased number of single-mother families and women entering the workforce, recent welfare reforms that make receipt of cash benefits contingent on employment, and changes in the economic environment that have increased employment problems, all highlight the importance of examining unemployment and underemployment particularly among single-mother families. The current study used the 2004 panel of the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP) to examine patterns and correlates of unemployment and underemployment among single-mother families. The results indicate fairly substantial employment problems. Although approximately one-half (55.6%) of the single mothers had adequate employment, 30% experienced unemployment or involuntary job gaps, and approximately 15% experienced underemployment. Results further indicate that age, education level, past work experience, and homeownership are related to a reduced risk of employment problems. On the other hand, work disability, other family income, receipt of cash benefits, and state unemployment rates place single mothers at an increased risk of unemployment and underemployment. The findings suggest social policy implications and targeted assistance for those at-risk single mothers trying to secure adequate employment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)820-828
Number of pages9
JournalChildren and Youth Services Review
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2011


  • Economic downturn
  • Poverty
  • Single-mother families
  • Underemployment
  • Unemployment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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