Single Parents Competing in a Dual-Earner Society: Social Policy to Level the Playing Field

AuthorRense Nieuwenhuis
DOIhttp://doi.org/10.1177/00027162221122686
Published date01 July 2022
Date01 July 2022
Subject MatterChildcare, Parental Leave, and Immigration Policies
114 ANNALS, AAPSS, 702, July 2022
DOI: 10.1177/00027162221122686
Single Parents
Competing in a
Dual-Earner
Society: Social
Policy to Level
the Playing
Field
By
RENSE NIEUWENHUIS
1122686ANN THE ANNALS OF THE AMERICAN ACADEMYSINGLE PARENTS COMPETING IN A DUAL-EARNER SOCIETY
research-article2022
I examine the relative poverty risk among single-parent
households in countries that have a large share of
households with dual earners. Data from the
Luxembourg Income Study (LIS) Database are used to
analyze eighteen OECD countries in the period 1984
to 2010. I find that single parents face higher relative
income poverty risks in countries with a large share of
dual-earner households and that this higher risk of
poverty is related to higher standards of living in those
countries: higher standards of living have raised poverty
thresholds, and single-parent incomes are less likely to
reach those higher poverty thresholds. I also find that
this overall pattern varied across institutional contexts:
a rise of dual-earner households puts single parents at
a disadvantage only in countries that have relatively low
public expenditures on childcare and relatively low
income transfer policies.
Keywords: single parents; poverty; dual earners; gen-
der revolution; ECEC; decommodifica-
tion; defamilization
Families in high-income countries have seen
significant changes in recent decades. Two of
the most important economic changes have been
the rise of women’s participation in the labor
force, which increased the share of households
with dual earners (Ferragina 2020; Goldin 2006),
and a rise in the diversity of family forms, includ-
ing single parenthood (Thomson 2014; Bernardi,
Mortelmans, and Larenza 2018). The increase in
women’s economic activity, often described as
part of the gender revolution, is generally associ-
ated with lower economic inequality, but it has
not been without certain economic trade-offs.
Rense Nieuwenhuis, an Associate Professor in sociology
at the Swedish Institute for Social Research (SOFI) at
Stockholm University, studies how gender inequality,
family diversity, and social policy affect poverty and
economic inequality. He published in journals such as
Social Forces, European Sociological Review, and
Journal of European Social Policy.
Correspondence: rense.nieuwenhuis@sofi.su.se

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