Wealthy women are having fewer children and poor ones are having more, and the result is that most babies in the U.S. are born into poor households.
A new Census study backs up the steady trend that more educated women are waiting to have children later and having fewer children. But it also shows that the number of babies born into poverty is large and growing.
In 2012, women below the poverty line accounted for 82 per 1,000 births, while women who are well-off — at twice the poverty threshold or higher — accounted for just 45 per 1,000. This would indicate that poor women are having babies at almost twice the rate of wealthy ones.
The number of children born to poor households varied by state, with Mississippi and Montana topping the list. They were the only two states in which more than two in five births over the previous year were to mothers in poverty.
The states with the least number of babies born into poverty were Massachusetts, Delaware, Utah and Connecticut. Connecticut's rate of births to moms in poverty was the lowest at 17.8 percent, while Mississippi's was more than double at 42 percent.
Most women are married when they have their first child, but there is an uptick in the number of women having children outside of marriage, and children living with single moms have much higher poverty rates. Almost half of children living with single mothers are living in poverty, while that's true of 21 percent living with single dads. The poverty rate for kids living with both parents was 13 percent.
More single moms falling into poverty is problematic, because four in 10 mothers are now the primary breadwinners for their families, according to a Pew Research report last year, and many of these are single moms.
It's not that these moms aren't working hard — more than half of low-income single moms work full time, according to a Working Poor Families Project report. But they don't get paid well, and don't get good benefits. Many work in retail and service industries where they mean wage is $10 an hour, or $21,000 a year.
More children being born into poverty means that more kids have to struggle to climb the economic ladder and may struggle with poverty as adults, according to recent Harvard research.
"It is not true that mobility itself is getting lower,” Lawrence F. Katz, a Harvard economist and mobility scholar, told the Washington Post. “What’s really changed is the consequences of it. Because there’s so much inequality, people born near the bottom tend to stay near the bottom, and that’s much more consequential than it was 50 years ago.”
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