Single mothers who are the sole providers for their children often feel completely on their own, but statistics show that isn’t the case. Whether because of divorce, unplanned pregnancy, widowhood or an absent partner, single parenthood is now the norm in the United States, with nearly four out of 10 children born outside of marriage.
Out of the 12.2 million single-parent families recorded by the U.S. Census Bureau in 2012, more than 80% were headed by single mothers. Today, more than 20 million children are being raised in a single-parent household – about 26% of children under the age of 21, the Census Bureau reports.
The report on custodial mothers and fathers also show that the average single mother is actually a white woman in her 40s who has been through a divorce. About 39% of women raising children on their own are age 40 or older. About 45% of single mothers never married, while the other 55% report they have been through a divorce or separation in which the custody of children was involved.
Most of the people who find themselves raising children on their own never expected they would be faced with single parenthood, as most of them started out in committed relationships. Yet, once they are faced with the prospect of single motherhood, many women tackle the challenge head on. Most families headed by single mothers do not live in poverty, with just 27% ranked below the poverty line.
About 80% of single mothers are employed, most of them full time. In addition, most single mothers are not on public assistance, such as food stamps. Among single mothers raising children on their own, about 22% get Medicaid, 23% are on food stamps, 12% receive government subsidies for housing or live in public housing and 5% have received Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), a program which provides short-term support to families in crisis.