Single Parents in High-Income Countries: What the United States Can Learn from Others

AuthorIsabel V. Sawhill
DOIhttp://doi.org/10.1177/00027162221123446
Published date01 July 2022
Date01 July 2022
Subject MatterSummative Commentaries
226 ANNALS, AAPSS, 702, July 2022
DOI: 10.1177/00027162221123446
Single Parents
in High-Income
Countries:
What the
United States
Can Learn from
Others
By
ISABEL V. SAWHILL
1123446ANN THE ANNALS OF THE AMERICAN ACADEMYSINGLE PARENTS IN HIGH-INCOME COUNTRIES
research-article2022
In the last 50 years, single parenthood has become
more prevalent in the United States. As compared to
other high-income countries, the United States does
little to support single-parent families and they fare
poorly as a result. This volume takes a comparative
approach to extend our knowledge of the experiences
of single parent families and the best approaches to
support their well-being. By looking at the circum-
stances of single-parent families across many countries,
this volume sheds light on important questions pertain-
ing to child poverty and income inequality, the role of
public assistance in supporting single-parent families,
and the impact of this assistance on employment and
marriage. In this article, I summarize the authors’ con-
tributions in addressing these questions and present my
own perspective on related issues, including the impact
of single-parent families and cohabitation on children.
I end with highlighting what researchers can learn from
this volume and how U.S. policymakers can apply these
lessons.
Keywords: single parents; child poverty; income ine-
quality; public assistance; marriage
The prevalence of single-parent families has
been growing in almost all advanced coun-
tries over the last half century (Biegert et al.,
this volume; Nieuwenhuis, this volume). That
trend has been driven by changes in opportuni-
ties for women that enable them to survive
Isabel V. Sawhill is a senior fellow in economic studies
at the Brookings Institution, working in the Center on
Children and Families and on the Future of the Middle
Class Initiative. Dr. Sawhill’s research spans a wide
array of economic and social issues, including fiscal
policy, economic growth, poverty, social mobility, and
inequality. Dr. Sawhill has authored or edited numer-
ous books, including A New Contract with the Middle
Class (with Richard Reeves), The Forgotten Americans:
An Economic Agenda for a Divided Nation, Generation
Unbound: Drifting into Sex and Parenthood without
Marriage, Creating an Opportunity Society (with Ron
Haskins), and Restoring Fiscal Sanity 2005: Meeting
the Long-Run Challenge.
Correspondence: isawhill@brookings.edu

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