California’s Recovery Is Leaving Single Mothers Behind

More than 60,000 children could lose access to child care and preschool in the coming fiscal year under the Governor’s proposed budget, according to a recent CBP report. The Governor’s proposed cuts come at a time when single mothers, many of whom rely on affordable child care to work, have been left behind by the emerging recovery.

A new CBP analysis of US Census Bureau data shows that single mothers in California continued to experience declines in employment and earnings last year, while married parents’ employment slowly began to rebound. The share of single mothers with jobs fell from 58.8 percent in 2010 to 56.8 percent in 2011, and was down by more than 12 percentage points from a recent peak of 69.2 percent in 2007. The drop in 2011 marked the fourth straight year of decline and brought single mothers’ employment rate to the lowest level since 1995, two years before California enacted welfare reform. By comparison, the employment rates for married parents increased slightly between 2010 and 2011, rising from 85.5 percent to 85.8 percent for married fathers and from 57.1 percent to 57.5 percent for married mothers. Even single mothers who were employed in 2011 fell further behind: Their typical inflation-adjusted earnings declined that year for the fourth year in a row. In total, single mothers’ inflation-adjusted median hourly wage fell by 8.4 percent between 2007 and 2011. That drop erased all of the hourly wage gains single mothers made prior to the Great Recession.

Single mothers in California continue to struggle in the face of a weak job market. Cutting child care and preschool funding would only leave them further behind.

— Samar Lichtenstein