Report: More working moms are low income
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Nationwide, there are now 4.1 million low-income families headed by working mothers, including 132,000 in Michigan, according to the new report, Low- Income Working Mothers and State Policy: Investing for a Better Economic Future.
The report, which was released by the Working Poor Families Project and utilizes the latest data from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, finds that Michigan ranks 28th in the nation for the number of female-headed low-income working families. In 2012, there were 315,281 low-income working families in the state, with 132,146 headed by working mothers. (The report defines “low-income” working families as earning no more than twice the federal poverty income threshold; in 2012, the low-income threshold for a family of three with two children was $36,966.)
“All parents have many challenges balancing work and family needs,” said Gilda Jacobs, president and CEO of the Michigan League for Public Policy. “These challenges are especially acute for single, low-income working mothers.”
Many of the factors keeping working mothers in poverty can be addressed at the state level, the report found. State governments have significant authority and opportunity to help low-income working mothers gain the education and skills they need to provide for their children, as well as provide important supports that can assist them as they strive to become economically secure.
“Too many female-headed working families have no pathway out of poverty,” said Deborah Povich, co-manager of the Working Poor Families Project and one of three authors of the report. “Public policy can and must play a critical role in increasing opportunities so families can achieve economic security. Addressing the needs of low-income working mothers will benefit their children and future generations.”
The report found that 40 percent of women heading low-income working families in Michigan have no postsecondary education at all. Many who do have some level of postsecondary education have not completed a program or received a credential. According to the report, Michigan and other states can help low-income families succeed in postsecondary education by providing need-based financial aid to part-time students along with affordable child care. Michigan can also improve the quality of low-wage jobs by raising the minimum wage, assuring that all workers have paid sick and family leave and strengthening its state Earned Income Tax Credit.
“Michigan has taken some first steps by expanding Medicaid eligibility and establishing a state Earned Income Tax Credit,” said League Policy Director Karen Holcomb-Merrill. “We now need to restore the EITC to 20 percent of the federal credit, update the minimum wage so that hard work will pay enough to support a family and increase the child care subsidy. Let’s also look at ways to provide paid sick and family leave to workers so a mother does not have to risk her and her children’s well-being just to keep her job.”
Low-Income Working Mothers and State Policy: Investing for a Better Economic Future, can be found on the WPFP website at http://www.workingpoorfamilies.org.