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Occasional Paper

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This paper focuses on low-wage work and single mothers. I begin with a typical example of early 20th century research on low-wage workers as it helps provides both an historical explanation for women’s earnings and employment situation over much of the 20th century and important insights into new directions for research and advocacy. Following that, I tease apart the distinctions between having low wages and being low income, particularly as these apply to single mothers. I then detail the resource base for single mothers which entails the complex relationship between family structure and obligations, earnings and employment benefits, and public supports. I argue that the three main current analytical approaches to single mothers’ resources are individually insufficient to tackle the new dilemmas facing single mothers with low earnings, but can be linked together to more fully illuminate these dilemmas. Finally, I offer three directions for research and advocacy.


Center for Social Policy Working Paper #2009-1.

The author thanks the Ford Foundation for their support for this work. The views expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the Ford Foundation.



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