The Plight of Single Moms in College on Mother’s Day

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Single mothers in college full-time spend the equivalent of a full work day on child care and housework, and more time in paid employment than women students without children, according to a time use analysis released today by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR).  They also spend less time on self-care, including sleep and exercise, and have less time to study.

Single mothers represent 11 percent of all undergraduates, or 2.1 million students, but less than a third of single mothers complete their degrees. IWPR’s analysis illustrates the time demands that interfere with college success for single mothers.

“As we approach Mother’s Day and college commencement season, we often recognize the dedication of time and energy that mothers and graduating seniors have made. Single mothers in college are doing double and triple duty to make a better life for their families, but too few have the support needed to juggle the competing time demands of college, parenthood, and employment,” said IWPR Senior Research Associate Lindsey Reichlin Cruse.

The paper includes analysis of data from Monroe Community College (MCC) in Rochester, NY, showing that parents of young children who used MCC’s on-campus child care center were three times more likely to graduate as parents who didn’t access the center.

The briefing paper includes policy recommendations for improving access to child care and other supports to help single mothers in college cope with their time demands.

“Every college should be able to point student parents to child care resources in the community, and those with campus children’s centers should retain that critical resource for student success. Campuses must be prepared to welcome multiple generations and understand the full array of life demands facing independent students,” noted IWPR Vice President and Executive Director Barbara Gault.

The Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) is a nonprofit organization that conducts and communicates research to inspire public dialogue, shape policy, and improve the lives and opportunities of women of diverse backgrounds, circumstances, and experiences. IWPR works in affiliation with the Program on Gender Analysis in Economics at American University.

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