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Lone mothers make gains in jobs and pay, but mainly over 40s.

As a group, lone mothers made considerable gains in employment and earnings over a 20-year period. However, the gains show up mainly among women aged 40 and over, according to a report published by Statistics Canada.

Two developments explain this change. One is statistical: the aging of the baby boom generation increased the proportion of lone mothers who are over 40. In 1981, three-quarters (76%) of all lone mothers had been born before 1950; by 2001, this proportion had plunged to only 7%. Generally, women over 40 find employment more readily and at higher rates of pay.

The other development is the postwar revolution in the educational attainment of women. During the 20-year period of study, the proportion of lone mothers with postsecondary or university education increased from 28% to 49%. Generally, the more highly educated are more likely to work and earn higher wages than their less-educated counterparts.

Largely as a result of these changes, employment rates among all lone mothers went up by 12 percentage points. At the same time, annual earnings among those employed rose by 16%, producing a substantial decline in the low-income rate of lone mothers.

Among lone mothers under 40, economic outcomes have been relatively stagnant. Their employment rate rose by only 8 percentage points, while earnings among those with jobs fell. The decline in the relative earnings of young lone mothers reflected a general erosion of earnings experienced by all young workers over the past several decades.

The authors of the report point out that, "the aging of the baby boom mothers was a one-time event that will not be repeated. This factor may also have a one-time effect on the economic outcomes for lone mothers." Rising educational attainment may not be a source of economic gains for lone mothers in the future as it was in the past.

The research paper is titled, Why did employment and earnings rise among lone mothers during the 1980s and 1990s?
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Publication:Community Action
Article Type:Brief article
Geographic Code:1CANA
Date:Jun 19, 2006
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