The Best (and Worst) Cities for Single Mothers

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5. Durham-Chapel Hill, NC
> Hrs./week for typical single mother to afford rent:
49.6 hours
> Market rent for two-bedroom apt.: $922
> Median income for single mother household: $26,132
> Share of 3 and 4 year olds enrolled in school: 50.1%

By measures of income, childcare, and housing affordability, Durham-Chapel Hill is one of the best metro areas for single mothers. A single mother has to work 49.6 hours per week at the median wage to afford a typical two-bedroom apartment in Durham-Chapel Hill, one of only nine metro areas in which this measure is less than 50 hours.

Durham and Chapel Hill are two corners of the North Carolina Research Triangle, which together with Raleigh form a hub for high-tech companies and large research universities. With numerous educational and occupational opportunities, the metro area also has above average college attainment and single mother employment.

4. Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, CT
> Hrs./week for typical single mother to afford rent:
80.1 hours
> Market rent for two-bedroom apt.: $1,646
> Median income for single mother household: $32,331
> Share of 3 and 4 year olds enrolled in school: 68.7%

Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk is one of the wealthiest places in the country. While single mother households in Bridgeport earn significantly less than other city households, the median single mother household income of $32,331 is the 12th highest nationwide. Despite the relatively higher income, Bridgeport is one of the less affordable places for single mothers to rent a two-bedroom apartment.

Bridgeport offers other public support. While fewer than half of all toddlers attend preschool nationwide, 68.7% of all three- and four-year olds in Bridgeport are enrolled in school — the highest share of any metro area. Access to public transportation can also improve single mothers’ quality of life. Almost one in 10 Bridgeport metro area workers commute on public transit, the seventh highest such share in the country.

3. Cedar Rapids, IA
> Hrs./week for typical single mother to afford rent:
52.9 hours
> Market rent for two-bedroom apt.: $718
> Median income for single mother household: $26,448
> Share of 3 and 4 year olds enrolled in school: 52.6%

A two-bedroom apartment in Cedar Rapids goes for just $718 a month, one of the lower rents of any metro area. Coupled with the $26,448 a typical single mother household earns annually — more than the median for single mothers nationwide — Cedar Rapids is relatively affordable. A typical single mother would have to work 52.9 hours a week to afford such an apartment, a relatively short workweek compared to most metro areas. A disproportionately high share of Cedar Rapids single mothers own their homes. Of single mother households in the area, 58.9% own their homes compared to 45.6% of single mothers nationally.

2. Hartford-West Hartford-East Hartford, CT
> Hrs./week for typical single mother to afford rent:
67.7 hours
> Market rent for two-bedroom apt.: $1,214
> Median income for single mother household: $32,072
> Share of 3 and 4 year olds enrolled in school: 66.6%

Accessible early education not only boosts educational preparedness of children, but can enable single mothers to enter employment as well. In Hartford, 66.6% of three- and four-year olds are enrolled in school, the second largest share of U.S. metro areas. Single mothers earn far more money in Hartford than in most parts of the country and are more likely to be employed. The typical single mother household makes $32,072 annually, much more than the $24,403 median income for single mother households nationwide.

1. Norwich-New London, CT
> Hrs./week for typical single mother to afford rent:
60.9 hours
> Market rent for two-bedroom apt.: $1,119
> Median income for single mother household: $38,063
> Share of 3 and 4 year olds enrolled in school: 61.2%

Of the hundreds of metros reviewed, the Norwich-New London, Connecticut area is one of only nine where the single mother household poverty rate does not exceed 20%. The median annual income of single mother households in the Norwich area is $38,063. While this does not seem high compared to the median income for all households of $66,693, it is the second highest in the country compared to single mothers with children.

With 61.2% of three- and four-year old children enrolled in school in the area, well above the national percentage of 47.4%, Norwich-New London likely has a reasonably strong pre-K school system. For single mothers with young children, accessible pre-K schooling is among the most beneficial aspects of a city’s public infrastructure.