According to a recent Pew Research Center report, children in the United States are more likely to live in a single-parent household than children in at least 129 other countries, including China, India, and all of Europe. Maintaining a household as a single parent presents a number of challenges, the largest of which for many single-parent families are financial.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ 2018 Consumer Expenditure Survey, single parents with minor children devote a larger share of their spending on necessary costs of living, like food and housing, than married parents do. COVID-19 has only intensified the challenges faced by single parents. Those who have lost their jobs might struggle to cover living expenses, while those still employed must cope with a lack of child care options and schools being closed.
In spite of the strain experienced by many single parents, the percentage of single-parent households has tripled from less than 10 percent of families with children in 1950 to about 30 percent in 2019. The 22.7 percent of households with children that were headed by a single mother last year represents the lowest percentage of single-mother households since 2003. On the other hand, single-father households reached an all-time high of 7.4 percent in 2019. In 1950, single-father households accounted for only 1.1 percent of households with kids.
The proportion of single-parent families also varies widely by race and ethnicity. According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey, about one in four white families, and one in three Hispanic families, are headed by a single parent. Meanwhile, nearly 60 percent of black families are headed by a single parent, although this represents the lowest value since 1982. The percentage of white and Hispanic single-parent families has increased by 5.5 and 4.1 percentage points, respectively, over the same time period.
Geographically, Southern states tend to have the highest percentage of single-parent households, with Louisiana leading the nation at just over 40 percent. Mississippi, South Carolina, Arkansas, Florida, and Georgia all report percentages of at least 35 percent. Only 19 percent of family households in Utah are headed by a single parent. Hawaii and Idaho have the second and third lowest rates of single parenting, both at about 26 percent.
To determine which states have the most single parents, researchers at Smartest Dollar analyzed data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2018 American Community Survey. For each state, researchers calculated the percentage of families with children under 18 living in households headed by a single parent. The analysis also includes the percentage of households with single moms, single dads, and the total number of households headed by a single parent in each location.
Consistent with state-level trends, researchers found that a number of cities in the South report a high percentage of single-parent households. Several cities in the Midwest also appear atop the rankings, including Cleveland with the national high of 73.3 percent of single-parent households.
The analysis found that in Pennsylvania, 33.1% of families are headed by a single parent, which is above the national average of 32.1%. Here is a summary of the data for Pennsylvania:
- Percentage of families with a single parent: 33.1%
- Total families with a single parent: 415,373
- Percentage of families with a single mom: 24.0%
- Percentage of families with a single dad: 9.1%
For reference, here are the statistics for the entire United States:
- Percentage of families with a single parent: 32.1%
- Total families with a single parent: 10,519,285
- Percentage of families with a single mom: 23.7%
- Percentage of families with a single dad: 8.4%
For more information, a detailed methodology, and complete results, you can find the original report on Smartest Dollar’s website: https://www.smartestdollar.com/research/cities-with-the-most-single-parents-2020