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Child poverty in Texas worst among overburdened single moms

The global recession and its aftermath have been hard on wage earners. Competition for hard-to-get jobs is fierce. Members of one group -- single mothers - are often forced into taking multiple, low-wage jobs to meet minimum living costs. Even then, some aren't making ends meet.

Single mothers are losing financial battles in Texas and across the country, where the group's poverty rate is more than 40 percent -- three times higher than the national average. The amount of child support these mothers received was not reported.

Dismal economic numbers have not curbed the birth rate for single women. A Child Trends report found a 41-percent rise in births among unmarried females, especially among women in their 20s. Forty-two percent of all Texas births in 2010 were to unmarried women.

Women who are sole providers have difficulty improving their circumstances. Child care expenses, minimum wages and restrictive assistance programs prevent single moms from seeking higher education. Paychecks cover only basic needs and no extras.

Studies show that low-income single mothers work more now than they did two decades ago. The jobs they take are often without time flexibility, sick time or benefits.

The lack of financial participation by fathers is a contributing factor to the poverty experienced by single women and their children. A Heritage Foundation researcher believes that the short answer may be to encourage marriage.

Another solution to single-mother poverty is to ensure that fathers live up to the financial obligation to their children. The economic influence of a father's support can pull single-mother families above the poverty level, creating an opportunity for families to thrive instead of survive.

Not all fathers are disengaged with their children's lives, and not all single mothers have the ability to pursue support from neglectful fathers. Unmarried women often must press courts to establish paternity before initiating a child support action -- an expense that single moms often cannot afford.

Source: Houston Chronicle, "Figures show struggle worsening for single mothers," Renee C. Lee, Sept. 5, 2012

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