Abstract: Single-Parent Families and Work-Family Policy (Society for Social Work and Research 24th Annual Conference - Reducing Racial and Economic Inequality)

Single-Parent Families and Work-Family Policy

Thursday, January 16, 2020
Marquis BR Salon 7, ML 2 (Marriott Marquis Washington DC)
* noted as presenting author
Laurie Maldonado, PhD, Assistant Professor, City University of New York (CUNY) Medgar Evers College, Brooklyn, NY
Inequality and poverty are on the rise in many countries. Single-parent families, and other households at the bottom of the income distribution, are often left behind. This is especially the case in the United States, single-parent families in the U.S. have exceptionally high poverty rates. Whereas, countries with lower poverty rates have more effective policies that reduce poverty. This study examined the role of social policy and how it reduces poverty among single-parent households. It examines both transfers that includes Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and family policies that includes parental leave, child benefit supplement, and working time regulations. It asks to what extent does relative poverty of single-parent households vary across countries over time? What is the precise impact of transfers on reducing poverty of single-parent households? What is the association between work-family policies and reducing poverty of single-parent households?

This study makes a contribution to our knowledge on social welfare policy and reducing single parent poverty. Thisstudy includes 45 diverse countries– which brings new and important insights to the research on policies that reduce poverty for families. It examined 373,032 households with children in 45 countries, using household-level data from the Luxembourg Income Study (LIS) database and country-level policy indicators from The WORLD Policy Analysis Center. This study uses statistical analysis to calculate the relative poverty rates at different poverty thresholds over time, decomposition analysis to calculate poverty before and after the transfer was added, and describes poverty and policy associations.

The findings are descriptive and show that theUnited States has the highest percentage of single-parent families in poverty of all countries, even among many middle-income countries; including South Africa, China, Panama, and Brazil. Approximately 1 in 3 single-parent families experience poverty; and1 in 4 experience deep poverty in the US and South Africa. Redistribution through taxes and transfers is very effective in reducing poverty for both single- and coupled-parent families for all countries. Most countries redistribute income to cut their poverty rates by half or more. Not only is redistribution effective, family transfers are particularly important for single-parent families. Ireland and the UK have high amounts of family transfers. Some countries have lower poverty rates to begin with, but still effectively use family transfers to reduce poverty by more than half. The poverty and policy associations show that higher amount of parental leave is associated with lower poverty rates for single- and coupled-parent households. In addition, higher amounts of working time regulations are associated with lower likelihood of poverty, but perhaps less so than leave for parents to care for their children. Policy implications for the United States, to learn from other countries, and to combine both transfer and work-family policies as the most effective policy strategy to reduce poverty for single-parent families.