The Best (and Worst) Cities for Single Mothers

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5. Clarksville, TN-KY
> Hrs./week for typical single mother to afford rent:
84.6 hours
> Market rent for two-bedroom apt.: $797
> Median income for single mother household: $18,411
> Share of 3 and 4 year olds enrolled in school: 34.6%

By measures of income, childcare, and housing affordability, Clarksville is one of worst places for single mothers. The typical single mother household earns just $18,411 annually, about $6,000 less than the median income of single mother households nationwide. Despite Clarksville’s relatively low rent, a single mother would still need to work 84.6 hours a week to afford a typical two-bedroom apartment.

Clarksville’s relatively limited early education system also does little to soften the childcare responsibilities of single motherhood. Just 34.6% of metro area three- and four-year olds are enrolled in school, much less than the 47.4% national early education enrollment rate.

4. Salinas, CA
> Hrs./week for typical single mother to afford rent:
107.6 hours
> Market rent for two-bedroom apt.: $1,399
> Median income for single mother household: $24,694
> Share of 3 and 4 year olds enrolled in school: 40.1%

California is one of only a few states to guarantee paid leave to care for a new child — an indispensable subsidy for single mothers. Despite the parent-friendly state policies, Salinas is one of three California cities identified among the 10 worst for single mothers. In this case, paid leave simply does not outweigh the harms from economic factors working against single mothers in Salinas. Nationwide, 76.0% of single mothers are employed, but only 67.2% are in the Salinas area. While the income and poverty levels for single mothers in Salinas are in line with the national levels, the area housing market is extremely expensive for single mothers. A single mother earning the median wage would need to work more than 100 hours per week to afford the typical rent for a two-bedroom apartment in Salinas.

Further, the typical single mother in Salinas may have even more responsibilities, as the average single mother household size, at more than four, is eighth highest of all metros.

3. Santa Cruz-Watsonville, CA
> Hrs./week for typical single mother to afford rent:
123.4 hours
> Market rent for two-bedroom apt.: $1,604
> Median income for single mother household: $29,121
> Share of 3 and 4 year olds enrolled in school: 46.4%

While single mothers make somewhat more in Santa Cruz than in many parts of the country, high rents in the metro area make it nearly impossible for them to afford a house of appropriate size. With a median income of $29,121, a single mother with children under 18 in Santa Cruz-Watsonville would need to work 123.4 hours a week to rent an average two-bedroom home.

On a state level, however, California has policies favorable to single parenthood. It is one of three states with guaranteed paid family and medical leave, paying 55% of a worker’s average weekly wage in benefits for up to 52 weeks, depending on the reason for the paid leave. Workers can receive a maximum of $1,129 a week, more than in any other state. With the poor economic conditions, however, these provisions are likely inadequate for many single mothers trying to make ends meet in the Santa Cruz area.

2. Hinesville, GA
> Hrs./week for typical single mother to afford rent:
86.8 hours
> Market rent for two-bedroom apt.: $818
> Median income for single mother household: $16,972
> Share of 3 and 4 year olds enrolled in school: 33.0%

A typical single mother household in Hinesville earns just $16,972 year, nearly the least of any metro area. With such a low income, a single mother would need to work 86.8 hours a week to afford an average two-bedroom apartment in the area — making the $818 monthly rent for such a place nearly impossible to pay.

Hinesville also lacks the early education system that in other cities is extremely beneficial to single mothers. Early education not only prepares a child for academic success, but also better enables single parents to maintain full-time jobs. In Hinesville, however, just 33.0% of three- and four-year olds are enrolled in school, much less than the 47.4% national share.

1. Urban Honolulu, HI
> Hrs./week for typical single mother to afford rent:
152.4 hours
> Market rent for two-bedroom apt.: $1,985
> Median income for single mother household: $32,257
> Share of 3 and 4 year olds enrolled in school: 51.6%

Hawaii may be considered by many to be a paradise — to be sure, an intangible quality that is difficult to quantify. However, looking at social and economic conditions in the state’s urban center, no metro area is worse for single motherhood than Honolulu. To afford an average two-bedroom apartment in the city, a single mother earning the typical wage would have to work 152.4 hours in a single week, a virtual impossibility even without childcare responsibilities.

While the poverty rate for single mother households in Honolulu of 18.0% is well more than double the rate for all households in the city, it is still one of the lowest in the country compared with single mothers in other areas. For single mothers who live in poverty, incomes are especially low. On average, a single mother household in Honolulu earns income $12,144 below the poverty line, the sixth largest such deficit of U.S. metros.