Toughest Cities to Be a Single Mom

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5. Visalia-Porterville, CA
> Hrs./week for typical single mother to afford rent: 84.1 hours
> Market rent for two-bedroom apt.: $925
> Median income for single mother household: $20,836
> Share of 3- and 4-year-olds enrolled in school: 32.6%

The typical single mother household in the Visalia-Porterville metro area earns $20,836 a year, roughly $5,300 less than the median income for all single mothers nationwide. The low incomes are likely due in part to low labor force participation among single mothers in the city. Just 73.2% of single mothers in Visalia are in the labor force, far less than the 82.4% national figure.

One factor that may contribute to low labor force participation among single mothers in Visalia is the low preschool enrollment in the city. While preschool programs can help single mothers better balance work and childcare duties, just 32.6% of 3- and 4-year-olds in Visalia are enrolled in school — far less than the 47.5% national preschool enrollment rate.

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4. Salinas, CA
> Hrs./week for typical single mother to afford rent: 126.0 hours
> Market rent for two-bedroom apt.: $1,540
> Median income for single mother household: $27,136
> Share of 3- and 4-year-olds enrolled in school: 37.5%

Salinas is one of several metro areas in California in which it is practically impossible for the average single mother to afford an apartment without spending more than 30% of her income. The average two-bedroom apartment in Salinas rents for $1,540 a month, more than in the vast majority of U.S. metro areas. Just 74.9% of single mothers in Salinas are in the labor force, and 6.3% of the labor force is unemployed — compared to the national participation rate of 82.4% and the U.S. unemployment rate of 3.7%.

Earning the average wage, a single mother in Salinas would have to work for 126 hours to afford a two-bedroom apartment without spending at least 30% of her income on rent, nearly the longest workweek of any metro area nationwide.

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3. Madera, CA
> Hrs./week for typical single mother to afford rent: 98.6 hours
> Market rent for two-bedroom apt.: $1,020
> Median income for single mother household: $18,787
> Share of 3- and 4-year-olds enrolled in school: 33.9%

The average rent for a two-bedroom apartment in Madera rents is $1,020 a month, more than in a majority of metro areas. To afford a two-bedroom without spending at least 30% of her income on rent, the average single mother in Madera would need to work 98.6 hours a week, one of the longest workweeks of any U.S. city.

Access to high-quality preschool programs can help single mothers balance work and child care responsibilities, but Madera has one of the lowest preschool enrollment rates of any metro area. Just 33.9% of 3- and 4-year-olds are enrolled in school, far less than the 47.5% national enrollment rate.

Source: jacksonvillenc.gov

2. Jacksonville, NC
> Hrs./week for typical single mother to afford rent: 114.9 hours
> Market rent for two-bedroom apt.: $843
> Median income for single mother household: $18,041
> Share of 3- and 4-year-olds enrolled in school: 35.8%

While a resident would need to make $33,720 a year to afford the average two-bedroom apartment in Jacksonville without spending more than 30% of his or her income on rent, the typical single mother household in the metro area earns just $18,041 annually — nearly the lowest such figure nationwide. All things equal, the average single mother in Jacksonville would have to work 114.9 hours a week to adequately afford a two-bedroom apartment, the seventh most of any U.S. metro.

Access to high-quality preschool programs can not only provide children with a foundation for educational success, but also help single mothers balance child care and work. In Jacksonville, however, just 35.8% of 3- and 4-year-olds are enrolled in school, far less than the 47.5% national figure.

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1. Santa Cruz-Watsonville, CA
> Hrs./week for typical single mother to afford rent: 181.5 hours
> Market rent for two-bedroom apt.: $2,439
> Median income for single mother household: $31,131
> Share of 3- and 4-year-olds enrolled in school: 41.2%

The Santa Cruz-Watsonville metro area is one of several cities in California in which it is practically impossible for the average single mother to afford an apartment without spending more than 30% of her income. The average two-bedroom apartment in Santa Cruz rents for $2,439 a month, the third highest rent of any metro area nationwide.

While the typical single mother household in the metro area earns $31,131 a year — roughly $5,000 more than the U.S. median for single female householders with children — she would need to earn more than three times that to afford a two-bedroom apartment. All things being equal, the average single mother in Santa Cruz would have to hypothetically work 181.5 hours a week to afford a two-bedroom apartment, more hours than there are in a week and the most of any city.