Families with young children at home face the greatest economic challenges, according to a recent report, as parents struggle to balance their jobs and child care needs.
At a time when income inequality is a significant burden affecting many everyday Americans, the document produced by the non-profit Demos explains that families with children under 5 have substantially lower incomes than households without children or even those with older children, even after controlling for differences in age, partnership status, education and race.
Households with two adults on average experience a $14,850 a year dip in income, about 14 percent of overall income, after controlling for other factors. Single parent households led by women suffer the greatest loss, however. Wages fall by 36 percent, or $16,610.
As it stands, single mothers with young children are 15 percent more likely to live in poverty than single women without children. Households with kids under five that have two adults, meanwhile, only see a bump in poverty rates of three percent.
“The competing demands of work and caregiving place a particularly heavy burden on families with children too young to attend school, since young children require care for more hours of the day and purchasing childcare is considerably more expensive for babies and toddlers,” the report states. “Evidence of the strain is visible in family incomes and poverty rates.”
It is for reasons like these that parental leave has become such high-profile issue. Parents shouldn’t have to enter the poor house when they bring a child into the world. Paid parental leave and paid sick days would help alleviate some of the strain on their finances.
Being a good parent is always a challenging job. But people need to work to support their families. There is no reason workers should have to struggle when they have young ones at home. Government must recognize this shortcoming and take steps to make the workplace more family friendly.