Nearly 101,000 Chicago single moms, their children live on less than $13 per day

Nearly 101,000 Chicago single moms, their children live on less than $13 per day

Of nearly 240,000 Chicagoans living on less than one-half of the federal poverty income level in 2022, nearly 101,000 of them were in households led by single mothers.

The poorest of Chicago’s low-income households are likely led by single mothers, with nearly 101,000 moms and kids each existing on less than $13 a day.

Chicago is battling one of the worst poverty crises in the nation, with over 450,000 Chicagoans, or 17.2% of the population, living below the federal poverty line in 2022. Nearly 240,000 of them are considered to live in “deep poverty,” which is incomes of less than one-half of the poverty line.

The Chicago households most commonly in deep poverty are single-mother families, with nearly 101,000 individuals.

Of the city’s mom-led households, 17.7% lived in deep poverty. Married couple families faced deep poverty rates of only 2.6%. Families in “other” living arrangements – such as single fathers and their children or households where children are being raised by someone other than their parents – also face substantially lower deep poverty rates at 12.2%.

To be considered in “deep poverty,” a household of two had to earn less than $12.54 per person per day. For single mothers with multiple children, the figure was even less.

Extremely high levels of poverty among single mothers is part of the reason why women in Chicago are 21% more likely to be impoverished than men. Poverty is also more common among women in Chicago than in other large cities throughout the country.

These differences are likely attributable to discrepancies in labor force participation between men and women, which differ even more dramatically among mothers and fathers. Lower labor force participation among mothers is concerning, as data from the U.S. Census Bureau shows employment status is the single-most important factor impacting the poverty rate. Full-time employees in Chicago not only face lower poverty rates than Americans in other large cities, but securing full-time, year-round employment virtually eliminates the odds of being in poverty.

Fortunately, research has shown that public policy can positively influence employment, particularly among single mothers, while evidence also suggests anti-poverty programs that incentivize work have been effective in increasing employment and raising incomes to promote upward mobility.

Future poverty alleviation solutions should focus on ways to encourage labor force participation and secure better employment outcomes for capable individuals. Reducing barriers to entry into the labor force, removing cumbersome regulations, improving the quality of education and fostering an environment in which employees, employers and communities can flourish all present opportunities for public policy solutions that can reduce poverty and improve the lives of Chicagoans – regardless of their income status.

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