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Characteristics of Low-Income Single Mothers Disconnected from Work and Public Assistance

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Document date: August 17, 2011
Released online: August 17, 2011


Families headed by low-income single mothers who are not working or receiving public cash benefits ("disconnected families") are among the most vulnerable in our society. This fact sheet shows that the number of families in this situation is increasing over time. It also describes their income, receipt of noncash benefits like housing and food assistance, living arrangements, and characteristics that may impede work.

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After welfare reform passed in 1996, millions of single mothers left public assistance for work. Overall, their earnings rose and caseloads fell (Blank 2007), but the poorest single mothers, particularly those living alone with their children, did not share in those income gains (Haskins 2001; Zedlewski 2002). A significant minority of former recipients left welfare without a job, becoming "disconnected" from the labor market and from public assistance programs.

Understanding the characteristics of this group and the challenges they face can help public programs better reach out to disconnected families. This fact sheet summarizes findings from an Urban Institute study of disconnected single mothers and their changing circumstances over time.

Our study compares characteristics of disconnected mothers with those of all low-income single mothers in 2004 and in 2008 and examines the factors associated with becoming disconnected and reconnected.

End of excerpt. The entire fact sheet is available in PDF format.

Topics/Tags: | Employment | Families and Parenting | Poverty, Assets and Safety Net

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