In a recent report by Tim Casey, Senior Staff Attorney for Legal Momentum, it was revealed that single mothers in the United States work longer hours than their peers in other high-income countries, and yet have much higher poverty rates.
Intriguingly, the difficulty does not lie with the ability of these single mothers to find jobs. In fact, the employment rate for U.S. single mothers during the mid-to-late 2000s was 73%, compared to an average of 66% to 70% in peer countries. Yet, this impressive employment rate is not keeping U.S. single parents (more than 80% of whom are mothers) from sinking below the poverty line. When comparing the median income of single parents, domestically, to that of single parents in other high-income countries, the U.S. has an average poverty rate of 51%, while peer countries measure an average poverty rate of 27%.
This, in conjunction with the fact that 87% of employed U.S. single parents are working thirty or more hours a week (compared to an average of 64% of single parents who hold jobs in the other countries) means that single parents in America are working longer hours in exchange for a sub-standard quality of life.
“The reason we have these high poverty rates for single mother families – despite their comparatively high employment rates and high share of full-time workers – is because our income support system is terribly inadequate and there’s a very high rate of low-wage work,” says Casey.
Indeed, the United States lags far behind other high-income countries in its support for single parents. In the high-income countries that were included in the study, new parents are entitled to paid leave; in the United States, just 11% of employees enjoyed it in 2011. In fact, the U.S. is the only one of the seventeen comparable countries without an entitlement to paid annual leave.
In a country where it remains difficult for single mothers to succeed, Star Career Academy is one of the leading vocational institutions that pride itself on its track record of giving single mothers the skills they need to rise up and provide for their families. Take, for example, Lacey Dickson, who found herself in the difficult position of trying to provide for her three-year-old son by working long hours at her local Shop Rite. As a natural and curious learner, she enjoyed her experience at Star, and the subject matter was one for which she had always had a desire to learn: medical assisting.
Today, Dickson works as a medical assistant at Barnabas Health, New Jersey’s largest integrated healthcare delivery system. A career as a medical assistant is currently considered to be one of the best healthcare careers of 2012 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which projects that the field will grow by 31% in the next decade.