Single Mothers Are at Greater Risk of Homelessness

Single Mothers and homelessness, homeless families

The two fastest-growing demographics for homelessness are senior citizens and families led by single mothers. One of these groups represents a checkered past, the other a bleak future.

It’s important to note that when single mothers present at a higher risk for homelessness, the children suffer the most. These are the future leaders of our country, and the foundation laid for them is already somewhat shaky.

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History of Single Mothers

We like to think of single motherhood as an unfortunate circumstance that has created obstacles for centuries, but that is not the case. Single motherhood, representing a large portion of any social structure or economy, is a relatively new phenomenon.

The Atlantic reports that single-parenthood, in general, has more than tripled since 1960. Historians concur that single-parenthood resulting from a divorce or parental separation is a phenomenon seldom seen before the 1980s. In previous eras, in the rare instances when single-parent families materialized, the circumstances were usually the result of plagues or wars.

Since the ‘80s (and incidentally, for the first time in recorded history), the leading causes of single parenthood have been divorce and nonmarital childbirth. For this reason, most single-parent households are headed by female breadwinners. Single dads account for only 6% of all single-parent households in the modern era.

We are witnessing a never-before-seen rise in families led by lone females juggling office hours and babysitting, academics, and extra-curricular activities. In the ‘90s, they called this the Cosmopolitan lifestyle, and the idea that ladies could do it all and better, perhaps most importantly, do it alone was born.

Yet, today, the unshakable truth remains in the shadow of that cry for independence. Single motherhood has serious social and economic repercussions for mothers and babies alike.

Children from Single Mother Households are Born into Statistical Disadvantages that Cannot Be Ignored

Hailing from a single-mother household already puts children at a statistical disadvantage. Data suggest that individuals from this socio-economic background are:

  • Twice as likely to drop out of high school, according to NPR
  • Twice as likely to suffer from obesity
  • Twice as likely to commit suicide
  • Four times more likely to become pregnant teenagers

Additionally, they are the fastest-growing demographic of people who are becoming homeless. Given the sheer numbers, this should not come as a surprise.

The US Census Bureau reports that families headed by single moms earn $32,586 per year on average. Meanwhile, the median rent nationwide stands at about $1,937 per month, just shy of its recent peak at $2,000 per month. This means that rent alone costs about 71% of the average-earning single mother’s salary, putting her and her children in a position of extreme rent burden.

Please note that the poverty threshold for a family of three in the United States of America is $24,860 per year. Therefore, a single mother with two children earning a median rate of $32,586 per year is an excellent example of someone vulnerable to homelessness and severely rent-burdened but not technically classified as “impoverished” by the nationally accepted standards.

Experts blame inflation, sky-rocketing rents, and other complex issues for the increase in family homelessness, but the timeline coincides with the rise in single mothers.

Family homelessness has been quietly but consistently increasing recently, from 1% in 1988 to 36% today, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services. This timeline is important because between 83% and 90% of all homeless families are headed by single mothers. Incidentally, the increase in single parenthood due to divorce and nonmarital childbirth began in the late ‘80s.

The overwhelming, leading cause of family homelessness, and all homelessness, is a lack of affordable housing. Regarding single mothers and homelessness, poverty and racism play major secondary roles in causing this unfortunate circumstance.

The current social structure in place in the United States of America is failing its youth for a wide variety of reasons:

  • rental prices and inflation are increasing at unprecedented rates
  • wages are decreasing or remaining stagnant
  • jobs are disappearing
  • pandemic-era benefits are ending

Single mothers and their children are falling by the wayside once again. This pattern must change before homelessness goes from devastating to generational.

Talk To Your Legislators About Making Housing a Human Right

With family homelessness and senior homelessness on the rise, the face of homelessness is growing younger and older by the minute. This means our national legacy and future are at stake.

We must do more to prevent homelessness by building permanent, affordable housing and legislating the right to it for all. Talk to your legislators about making housing a human right.

Cynthia Griffith

Cynthia Griffith


Cynthia Griffith is a freelance writer dedicated to social justice and environmental issues.

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