Mother-Only Families:

Low Earnings Will Keep Many Children in Poverty

HRD-91-62: Published: Apr 2, 1991. Publicly Released: Apr 2, 1991.

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GAO reviewed data about mother-only families and the problems they faced in escaping poverty, focusing on how government policy could improve the prospects for self-sufficiency.

GAO found that: (1) many single mothers would remain near or below the poverty line, even if they worked full-time, due to lack of education and work experience; (2) most women with young children did not work full-time year-round; (3) problems single mothers faced included low earnings, vulnerability to layoffs, lack of such fringe benefits as paid sick leave and health insurance, and high child care costs; (4) to escape from poverty, the majority of poor single mothers would need either supplementary income sources or job training; and (5) the 1990 legislative expansion of the earned income tax credit and child care subsidies could increase the percentage of poor families that live without welfare services.

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