The Best (and Worst) Cities for Single Mothers

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 The Best Cities for Single Mothers

10. La Crosse-Onalaska, WI-MN
> Hrs./week for typical single mother to afford rent:
58.8 hours
> Market rent for two-bedroom apt.: $828
> Median income for single mother household: $29,121
> Share of 3 and 4 year olds enrolled in school: 52.7%

In the La Crosse-Onalaska metro area, single mothers fare better than in most of the country. The typical household led by a single mother earns $29,121 annually, about $5,000 more than the $24,403 a typical single mother-led household earns nationwide. While single mothers tend to earn drastically less than most householders, the gap is slightly narrower in La Crosse. Single mother-led families in La Crosse earn 56.9% of the median household income in the metro area. Nationwide, single mother households earn 45.6% of median household income.

For the 47.4% of single mothers in the La Crosse area who live in rental housing, affordable real estate is essential. A typical two-bedroom apartment costs $828 per month in La Crosse-Onalaska. A single mother would need to work approximately 59 hours at the median wage to afford such housing in the metro area, a relatively short workweek compared to most of the country.

9. Boulder, CO
> Hrs./week for typical single mother to afford rent:
77.9 hours
> Market rent for two-bedroom apt.: $1,381
> Median income for single mother household: $32,568
> Share of 3 and 4 year olds enrolled in school: 65.0%

Public support systems such as pre-K public schools are especially helpful to single mothers. In the Boulder area, 65% of three- and four-year olds are enrolled in school, the third highest proportion of all metro areas and an indication of a strong pre-K school system.

Single mothers in every part of the country are more likely than others to struggle financially. Of single mother households in Boulder, 21.8% live in poverty. While this is far higher than the official poverty rate for all households, it is well below the national poverty rate for single mother households of 30.9%.

8. Bloomsburg-Berwick, PA
> Hrs./week for typical single mother to afford rent:
47.1 hours
> Market rent for two-bedroom apt.: $763
> Median income for single mother household: $26,698
> Share of 3 and 4 year olds enrolled in school: 44.6%

Unlike most of the best cities for single mothers, Bloomsburg-Berwick residents do not have especially high incomes. While incomes among single mothers in the area are even lower, the single mother household poverty rate of 25.1% is well below the single mother household poverty rate nationwide of 30.9%. Also, compared with most cities, the typical single mother in Bloomsburg has to work fewer hours to afford a two-bedroom apartment.

Despite its relative affordability, Bloomsburg’s other public support systems may be lacking. Bloomsburg is the only city on this list where fewer than half of three- and four-year olds are enrolled in school, suggesting a relatively weak pre-K school system. Also, only around two-thirds of Bloomsburg women who give birth in a given year have at least a high school diploma, versus three-quarters of women nationwide. As Hegewisch noted, not only are single mothers more likely to have lower levels of education, but it is also often very difficult for single parents to attend school.

7. Trenton, NJ
> Hrs./week for typical single mother to afford rent:
72.5 hours
> Market rent for two-bedroom apt.: $1,328
> Median income for single mother household: $31,686
> Share of 3 and 4 year olds enrolled in school: 63.4%

The typical single mother in Trenton earns $31,686 a year, much more than the $24,403 the typical single mother household earns nationwide. Trenton also has relatively good public childcare, which can significantly soften the burden of single motherhood. With 63.4% of three- and four-year olds enrolled in school, Trenton has the fifth best early education enrollment rate nationwide.

New Jersey is one of just three states with guaranteed paid family and medical leave. Workers can take up to six weeks off for family care and up 26 weeks off for a personal disability, which can include pregnancy. Workers on leave are eligible for 66% of their average weekly wages and in 2014 were paid $505 a week in these benefits on average.

6. New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA
> Hrs./week for typical single mother to afford rent:
78.1 hours
> Market rent for two-bedroom apt.: $1,527
> Median income for single mother household: $29,091
> Share of 3 and 4 year olds enrolled in school: 62.4%

Raising one or multiple children alone is extremely difficult, especially with low wages — a statistical likelihood for single mothers nationwide. Pre-K schooling, effectively free childcare and education, is therefore especially beneficial for single mothers. New York City recently introduced free, full-day pre-K, which will likely benefit single mothers more than anyone else. Currently, 62.4% of three- and four- year olds in the New York City area are enrolled in school, the seventh highest proportion of all U.S. metros and an indication of a strong pre-K school system.

Along with access to childcare, public transportation is also among the most important features of a city for single mothers — and the New York City area public transit system is one of the most accessible transit systems in the country. The area boasts a nation-leading share of workers using public transit of 30.4%.