Targeting, Universalism and Single Mother Poverty: A Multi-Level Analysis across 18 Affluent Countries

David Brady, Duke University
Rebekah A. Burroway, Duke University

We examine the influence of individual characteristics and targeted and universal social policy on single mother poverty with a multi-level analysis across 18 affluent democracies. Single mothers are disproportionately vulnerable to poverty in all countries. By far, the U.S. has the highest rate of poverty among single mothers. The analyses show that single mother poverty is a function of the household’s employment, education, age composition, and the presence of other adults. Beyond individual characteristics, two measures of universal social policy significantly reduce single mother poverty. Alternatively, one measure of targeted social policy does not have significant effects, while another is only significantly negative when controlling for universal social policy. Additional analyses show that universal social policy does not have counterproductive consequences in terms of family structure or employment, while the results are less clear for targeted social policy.

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Presented in Session 184: Families and Well-Being in Comparative Perspective