Single Parent Families and the Shifting Distribution of US Family Well-Being

  • Bradford F. Mills


Nonparametric density estimates and a generalized decomposition technique are employed to explore the role that changes in family structure in the 1980s and 1990s played in observed shifts in the U.S. distribution of family economic well-being. Single-parent families are identified as playing a key role in shaping the incidence and distribution of economic well-being below two times the poverty line. Most notably, the increased incidence of persons in families below one-half the poverty line can be traced to both an increase in the share of single-parent families and an increase in the propensity of single-parent families to reside at these very low levels of economic well-being. Decompositions further trace the increased incidence of single-parent families below one-half the poverty line to those without a working adult and those without a head with a high-school degree.