Special Report

Toughest Cities to Be a Single Mom

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5. Midland, MI
> Hrs./week for typical single mother to afford rent: 46.0 hours
> Market rent for two-bedroom apt.: $821
> Median income for single mother household: $24,018
> Share of 3- and 4-year-olds enrolled in school: 55.2%

In Midland, two-bedroom apartments rent for an average of $821 a month, far less than in most U.S. metro areas. Earning the average wage for female householders with children, a single mother in Midland would have to work just 46.0 hours a week to afford a two-bedroom apartment with the rent amounting to no more than the recommended 30% of income, the shortest workweek of any U.S. metro area.

One factor bolstering incomes for single mothers in Midland is the state’s minimum wage law. The minimum wage in Michigan is currently $9.25 an hour, $2.00 more than the federal minimum.

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4. Hartford-West Hartford-East Hartford, CT
> Hrs./week for typical single mother to afford rent: 64.3 hours
> Market rent for two-bedroom apt.: $1,194
> Median income for single mother household: $32,149
> Share of 3- and 4-year-olds enrolled in school: 65.2%

While the Hartford metro area is one of the more expensive real estate markets in the country, the high minimum wage in Connecticut and high labor force participation help make the city relatively affordable. The minimum wage of $10.10 an hour in Connecticut is $2.85 more than the federal minimum. Some 86.2% of single mothers in Hartford are in the labor force, more than the 82.4% national figure.

The typical single mother household in Hartford earns $32,149 a year, approximately $6,000 more than the median income for single mothers nationwide. Earning the average wage, a single mother in Hartford would need to work 64.3 hours a week to afford a two-bedroom apartment and still have income left for other necessities, a shorter workweek than in a majority of U.S. cities.

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3. Trenton, NJ
> Hrs./week for typical single mother to afford rent: 65.8 hours
> Market rent for two-bedroom apt.: $1,361
> Median income for single mother household: $34,303
> Share of 3- and 4-year-olds enrolled in school: 65.4%

High-quality, affordable preschool programs can help single mothers better balance work and childcare responsibilities. New Jersey has one of the highest-rated preschool systems in the United States and spends more per student on pre-K programs than any state. In Trenton, 65.4% of all 3- and 4-year-olds are enrolled in school, the third largest share of any metro area nationwide. New Jersey is also one of only a handful of states with required paid family leave.

Public transit can also increase access to educational and professional opportunities for single mothers. In Trenton, 7.9% of workers commute using public transit, the 11th largest share of any U.S. metro area. In addition, the required workweek to afford adequate housing within the recommended budget is about typical in Trenton compared to other metro areas.

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2. Boulder, CO
> Hrs./week for typical single mother to afford rent: 61.5 hours
> Market rent for two-bedroom apt.: $1,516
> Median income for single mother household: $41,708
> Share of 3- and 4-year-olds enrolled in school: 69.0%

While nationwide single mothers earn less than half the median income of a typical household, in Boulder, the median income for single mother households is $41,708 a year — the fourth highest of any metro area and 55.1% of the median for all households in the city. The average single mother in Boulder would have to work 61.5 hours a week to afford the average rent for a two-bedroom apartment with the rent amounting to no more than the recommended 30% of income, a shorter workweek than in a majority of cities.

Affordable preschool programs can provide children with an educational foundation for the rest of their lives and help single mothers better balance work and childcare responsibilities. In Boulder, 69.0% of 3- and 4-year-olds are enrolled in school, the largest share of any metro area nationwide.

Source: DenisTangneyJr / Getty Images

1. Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, CT
> Hrs./week for typical single mother to afford rent: 60.0 hours
> Market rent for two-bedroom apt.: $1,293
> Median income for single mother household: $33,641
> Share of 3- and 4-year-olds enrolled in school: 68.5%

While the Bridgeport metro area is one of the more expensive real estate markets nationwide, a single mother earning the average wage in the city would need to work 60.0 hours a week to afford a two-bedroom apartment and still have enough income for other necessities, a shorter workweek than in a majority of U.S. metro areas.

Government-subsidized services like public preschool and public transportation can improve the quality of life of single mothers. In Bridgeport, 68.5% of 3- and 4-year-olds are enrolled in school, the second largest share of any city. Some 10.4% of workers commute using public transit, the sixth largest share.

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