Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Another trait of poor families who become homeless

The third brief from the Institute for Children Poverty & Homelessness series on families with young children who become homeless arrived this month. This one examined the role of family structure.

Only 15% of the mothers who were married when their child was born became homeless in the 5 years of the study. Only 25% of the married mothers were even at risk of becoming homeless.

In contrast 56% of the poor mothers who became homeless and 41% of those who were at risk of homelessness were single. Only 23% of the families that were always stably housed were single.

“Married-parent families benefit from higher earnings and economies of scale as well as greater social and institutional support relative to single-parent families. The economic benefits to marriage are especially relevant for women from poor families. While cohabiting families share some similar characteristics with married-parent families, cohabitation results in the accumulation of fewer economic resources.” In other words, cohabiting couples are poorer.

The study adds an interesting observation just in case you think that marriage will lift poor, single women out of poverty. “Mothers who marry differ from those who remain single in ways that bear direct impact on poverty: They are older, more educated, healthier, and have higher earnings.”

I was surprised to learn that “Children raised in cohabiting households exhibit greater behavioral and emotional problems, lower school engagement, and greater delinquency than those in two-parent married or single-parent households.” They believe it is because cohabitation is less well defined and requires less commitment than marriage. There was no direct explanation of why children in single parent families would have less problems.