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"Each of us must come to care about everyone else's children. We must recognize that the well being of our own children is intimately linked to the well being of all other people's children. After all, when one of our children needs life-saving surgery, someone else's child will perform it. When one of our children is harmed by violence, someone else's child will commit it. The good life for our own children can be secured only if it is also secured for all other people's children. But to work for the well being of all children is not just a practical matter-- it is also right!" - Lilian G. Katz, Phd.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Bloggers Unite- International Womens Day

It is a time to honor women. I honor mothers everywhere. We work hard, often for very little reward. It has been a tough night in the Long home tonight, and I am trying to work on other projects, so I am posting a paper I wrote a few years ago for school on Motherhood and Poverty.

Motherhood & the Risk of Poverty: A Critical Inquiry
Krista Long
Arizona State University, West Campus

There is a difference between sexes when it comes to wages. Zastrow and Ashman (2004) state that “…for all races women earn significantly less than men do at every educational level” (Zastrow & Kirst-Ashman, 2004)(Zastrow & Kirst-Ashman, 2004). This earning difference is often increased by parenthood with the biggest risk factor for poverty being motherhood. Single parent households are five times more likely to be poor (Weisberg, 2004). TANF, which stands for Temporary Aid to Needy Families, recipients are 90% female in 2000 (Christopher, 2004). There are multiple factors involved with the relationship between the status of motherhood and poverty, which this paper will briefly explore and analyze.
A review of the available literature seems to reveal a dichotomy of views on the factors involved with the issue of motherhood and poverty. There are books that are written for mainstream audiences which frequently focus in on mothers in a higher economic level and their risk factors. On the other side, there are research-based articles that focus in on single motherhood and welfare, often with a focus on overcoming obstacles to a mother achieving employment (Smith, 2001). In reviewing representative samples, there is consensus on some of the factors that contribute to a mother’s risk of poverty. These include societal emphasis on a woman’s role in care-giving (Christopher, 2004), lack of supports for working parents (Shulman, 2003), issues with access to childcare, including cost (Porter, 2001), and the increase of single parent households (Craig, ).
In all income brackets, having a child deducts 7% from a woman’s wages. Currently, only 25% of households are a married couple with children (Handler & Hasenfeld, 2007). Female headed households are not limited by “…age, race, or educational attainment” (Porter, 2001). There is a distinct lack of societal support for single parents. Child support averages around $1331 per year and only 37% of single mother’s receive child support. In the year following a divorce, a man’s standard of living increases 10% while a woman’s decreases 27% on average (Weisberg, 2004).
Care-giving is undervalued in the United States (Crittenden, 2001). It is devalued in employment arena with careers in childcare and service industries being some of the lowest paid. Care-giving is unpaid at home and takes a large part of a woman’s time, often forcing her to make choices that put her at an economic disadvantage (Christopher, 2004). In a two parent household, one spouse often makes economic and career sacrifices in order to provide care. This spouse is usually the female and she then assumes all of the financial risk of divorce through both the loss of income from the other spouse and her own earning ability (Crittenden, 2001).
There are many factors, some which were briefly explored in this paper, that contribute to the issues of motherhood and poverty risk. There are no easy corrections for this problem. Books, such as The Price of Motherhood by Ann Crittenden, outline ways to ameliorate the problem but those solutions require a mass shift of the societal views of motherhood and care-giving. Some of Crittenden’s suggestions include restructuring marriage so that income is not the earners alone, but the family unit’s. She also suggests restructuring work around parenting needs, such as paid leave, a shortened work week, and equal pay and benefits for part-time work as for full-time (Crittenden, 2001). In the current political environment of the United States, those suggestions seem unlikely to be implemented. Like many social issues, motherhood and poverty is a maze of interrelated issues and the solutions will be just as complicated as the problem.


Christopher, K. (2004). Welfare as we [don't] know it: A review and feminist critique of welfare reform research in the united states. Feminist Economics, 10, 143-171.
Craig, L. The money or the care: A comparison of couple and sole parent households' time allocation to work and children. Australian Journal of Social Issues, 40, 521-540.
Crittenden, A. (2001). The price of motherhood: Why the most important job in the world is still the least valued. New York: Owl Books.
Handler, J. F., & Hasenfeld, Y. (2007). Blame welfare, ignore poverty and inequality. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Porter, E. (2001). Interdependence, parenting and responsible citizenship. Journal of Gender Studies, 10, 5-15.
Shulman, B. (2003). The betrayal of work : How low-wage jobs fail 30 million americans and their families. New York: New Press.
Smith, A. M. (2001). Mass-market magazine portrayals of working mothers and related issues, 1987 and 1997. Journal of Children & Poverty, 7, 101-119.
Weisberg, R. (2004). In Weisberg R. (Ed.), Waging a living. New York: Filmakers Library.
Zastrow, C., & Kirst-Ashman, K. K. (2004). Understanding human behavior and the social environment (Sixth Edition ed.). Belmont, CA: Thomson Brooks/Cole.