Single mothers in poverty tend to experience short-term, unstable and low-paying jobs, often resulting in material hardship for their families. They often rely on income support programs to help sustain their families' economic well-being. While substantial research studied program participation and employment outcomes among single mothers, limited research focuses on the sequences of multiple program participation among single-mothers with employment instability.
This study aims to (1) examine patterns of multiple program participation among single-mothers with employment instability; (2) determine multiple program participation sequences groups of single mothers with employment instability; (3) identify factors associated with multiple program participation sequences groups of single mothers with employment instability.
This study uses the 2008 panel (Wave 1 through Wave 15) of the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP). The sample includes low-income single mothers (aged 18-64) who experienced employment instability (from employment to unemployment; or from full-time to part-time employment), lived with at least one related child under age 18 and had a family income below 200% of the federal poverty line at the baseline. We first conducted weighted descriptive statistics to document the patterns of multiple program participation. We then performed sequence analysis to examine the sequences of program participation of four different types of government benefits (TANF, SNAP, Medicaid, and Unemployment Insurance) and combinations thereof. Specifically, sequence analysis generates non-overlapping groups of single mothers who share similar duration and sequencing of program participation use over time. Finally, we use the determined multiple program participation sequences groups as the dependent variable to examine factors associated with multiple program participation sequences groups of single mothers with employment instability.
Analyzing the pattern of multiple program participation, we found that about 40% of low-income single mothers receive the combination of SNAP and Medicaid over time. Very few low-income single mothers participate in three or more income support programs yearly during the study period. Moreover, multiple program participation was more prevalent among those experienced employment instability than those who did not. Findings from sequence analysis indicated that among mothers who were employed full-time then employed part-time, the most common sequences observed were for receipt of Medicaid only, participation in 3-programs (TANF, SNAP and Medicaid), and participation in both SNAP and Medicaid followed by SNAP only. Moreover, we found that among mothers who transitioned from employment to unemployment, the most common sequences include Unemployment Insurance in combination with one or two programs from TANF, SNAP and Medicaid.
Conclusions and Implications
This study contributes to a better understanding of how timing and sequences of multiple income support programs help different subgroups of single mothers who experience employment instability. Our results are expected to generate rich and informative knowledge on factors associated with multiple program participation sequences groups. Furthermore, the results from this study will inform policy changes that provide better income support packages to single mothers with employment instability by improving the accessibility and duration of the benefits.