Education Opinion

Single Parenthood and Schools

By Sara Mead — July 16, 2012 1 min read
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Jason DeParle’s long NYT piece over the weekend about the increasing percentages of children being raised in single parent homes--and the increasing inequality in family income and living standards associated with that--is well worth reading. This is an important issue with real implications for the work schools do--and one that needs to be more thoughtfully addressed in our current education debates and school reforms.

But there was one other point that goes by in passing in this article but really stuck out to me: The single mother DeParle profiles is living on the economic edge not just because she’s a single mother, but also because she works in child care--an exceptionally low wage field. This is a woman who has been promoted twice, earned an associate’s degree in her field, and now works as the assistant director of her center(a management role)--and she still earns only $12.35 an hour, can’t take leave to recover when she has major surgery, and has few prospects for promotion. That’s hardly a tale to attract smart and talented people to work in child care.

Jezebel’s Erin Gloria Ryan complains that DeParle’s story focuses primarily on women--not the men who certainly contributed to the conception of their children and in at least some cases are making little contribution to support their children’s upbringing. That is a problem but it is also to some extent the natural result of the fact that it’s a lot easier to identify single mothers than it is the fathers who are out of the picture. Child Trends has done some good work on this issue, though, making this a good time to plug their excellent and informative recent report on the demographics and life/family trajectories of teen fathers.

The opinions expressed in Sara Mead’s Policy Notebook are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.