By Tiffany Pennamon

A new report from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) this week adds to the institute’s ongoing research on the “life-changing” impact of earning a postsecondary degree for single mothers.

IWPR’s findings show that, in 2016 – the year with the latest available data – just 13 percent of single mothers who earned a bachelor’s degree live in poverty compared to 41 percent of single mothers with only a high school diploma or 32 percent of single mothers with some college experience.

As degree attainment surpassed the bachelor’s level, single mothers living in poverty declined to 8 percent, according to the report.

Currently, 24 percent of single mothers aged 25 or older have an associate or bachelor’s degree. 27 percent of women without children, and 37 percent of married mothers have these degrees.

The report also categorized single mothers’ associate and bachelor’s degree attainment by race and ethnicity. Single mothers who are Hispanic (15 percent), Native American (20 percent) and Black (20 percent) were less likely to hold undergraduate degrees than Asian (35 percent) and White (30 percent) single mothers.

Researchers’ analysis of poverty trends for single mothers indicated that these mothers have, on average, been six times more likely to live in poverty than married couple families since 1974.

IWPR assessed that if 25 percent of single mothers with a high school education or some college completed a college degree in 2016, poverty among the demographic would have declined by more than three times the rate seen over the last ten years.

“Greater access to supportive services, such as affordable child care, targeted financial aid and holistic case management would improve single mothers’ ability to enter college and persist to degree completion,” the report concluded. “Higher rates of college attainment among single mothers would substantially improve economic security and long-term outcomes for their families.”

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