Work Dynamics of Low-Income Single Mother Families in New York City

Project Date:
Nov 2015
Award Amount:
$34,208
Project Programs:
Future of Work

  • November 2016: Additional funding of $17,041 awarded

Over the last half-century, single motherhood and working motherhood have changed family life, transformed the labor market, and altered the experience of childhood. There have also been many changes in how public policy supports families with children—from the 1996 welfare reform law that ended the federal guarantee of cash assistance to needy families, to recent expansions of the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that have provided low-income families with additional resources. These policy changes have generally encouraged more mothers to work.

Public policy expert Ajay Chaudry will examine the dynamics of maternal employment and child development over an 18-year time period through follow-up interviews with a sub-sample of women for whom prior data was collected. This project follows from Chaudry’s research in his 2004 RSF book, Putting Children First: How Low-Wage Working Mothers Manage Child Care, in which he analyzed the child care arrangements of 42 low-income single-mother families in New York City. He will locate at least half of these women to conduct in-depth qualitative interviews about their job histories in the intervening years, and changes in family structure, income, residence, and children’s school experiences.

This qualitative data will inform the following questions: When looked at over time, how do low-income mothers make work decisions in the context of their family lives, personal relationships and parenting responsibilities? How do working single mothers view their work pathways, or succession of employment experiences? How do low-income working mothers combine earnings with other income and in-kind supports, such as through public benefit programs, when they are employed and not employed?

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