Single Parents

July 17, 2013

In U.S., Single-Parent Households Struggle More to Buy Food

Younger parents also have greater difficulty affording food at times

by Jessica Stutzman and Elizabeth Mendes

WASHINGTON, D.C. — In the U.S., 31% of single-parent households report times in the past 12 months when they struggled to afford food, much more than the 19% of two-parent households who say the same, according to an analysis of adults aged 18 to 50. Single-parent households also report greater difficulty affording food than do unmarried and single adults who do not have children. But, in households with two adults, the percentage who struggled at times to afford food is the same — 19% — regardless of the presence of children in the home.

Percentage Who STruggled to Afford Food, by Marital Status and Children in the Home

These data are based on more than 36,000 interviews conducted as part of the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index with adults aged 18 to 50 from Jan. 1-June 27, 2013. Over this time period, 23% of all Americans aged 18 to 50 reported struggling to afford food. However, the large majority of all Americans do not report struggling to afford food.

Having a child present in the home does not, by itself, make a household more likely to report struggling to afford food. Rather, having a child compounds the difficulty single-adult households already face.

Food Insecurity Increases With Three or More Children in the Household

Among all households, those with three or more children are significantly more likely than those with two or fewer children to say the family struggled to afford food in the past 12 months. This jumps from 21% to 22% of those with up to two children to 27% of those with three children and to 30% of those with four or more children.

Percentage Who Struggled to Afford Food, by Number of Children in the Home

Having three or more children in a household increases food insecurity, regardless of whether there are one or two adults in the home.

Younger Parents Struggle More to Afford Food at Times

Regardless of how many adults are in a household, younger parents are more likely to report struggling to afford food than their older counterparts. Nearly three in 10 adults aged 18 to 30 with at least one child in the household struggled to afford food in the past 12 months, compared with 21% of adults in the same age group who do not have a child in the home.

Percentage Who Struggled to Afford Food, by Age and Children in the Home

One age group does not follow this pattern: adults aged 41 to 50. Among this group, 23% of those who do not have children report struggling to afford food, compared with 19% of those with at least one child at home. Adults aged 41 to 50 who have children are more likely to be in a two-adult household than are those the same age who have no children, which may be part of the reason they are less likely to struggle to afford food.

Bottom Line

As the U.S. continues to recover from the recent recession, some groups are facing more challenges than others. Single-parent households, young parents, and parents with three or more children are struggling more than others to afford food. Although slightly improved from 2009 and 2010, unemployment remains high, making it harder for those of less means or with less of a support system to begin with to provide for their families.

For children especially, proper nutrition is crucial. Hunger among children can affect their overall health and impair their growth and development. Hunger can also stifle children’s ability to learn and can cause general behavioral issues. With more than a third of single-parent households struggling to afford food, addressing these high-risk families’ needs is vital to ensuring that the children in these homes have what they need to succeed.

1 thought on “Single Parents”

  1. Among the interesting features of this article is the Pew (2010) findings that Millennials most want to be good parents (51%) and most feel that more unmarried women having babies is not good for society (59%). However, the rate of infants born to unmarried women is 47.6 births per thousand unmarried women aged 15-44 years. That translates into 40.8%.
    (Data are for the U.S.)

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