Hit Hard By Recession: Unmarried Parents And Their Children

As part of the series "CBS Reports: Children of the Recession," CBS News conducted a national poll that includes nearly 1,000 interviews with parents of children under 18 who live with them.

The poll found that almost four in ten parents reported their children have been affected by the recession, and four in five said their families overall had been affected. Many said they were having a harder time paying for life's necessities, and about one in ten said they had delayed taking their child to the doctor or dentist because of financial concerns.

Unmarried or single parents (defined as parents who are single, divorced, separated or widowed) comprise 25 percent of parents in the survey, and they have been even harder hit by the recession. Nearly half of them say the recession has affected their families a lot; only 36 percent of married parents say the same. Single parents (43 percent) are also more likely than married parents (37 percent) to say the recession has affected their children.

Many more single than married parents have had difficulty paying bills in the last six months, more are grappling with unemployment, and more have forgone medical care for their children due to financial problems resulting from the recession.

Two thirds of the unmarried parents in this CBS News Poll are women. Their incomes are much lower than those of married parents'; half have household incomes below $30,000, compared to just 11 percent of married parents. Three in 10 are under the age of 30 and half are between the ages of 30 and 44.

Single parents are also more likely to be out of a job now. 23 percent say they are temporarily out of work, and 30 percent say that someone in their household has been unemployed in the past 6 months. Among married parents, 10 percent are temporarily out of work and just 22 percent report someone in their household has been. Single parents also worry more about losing their jobs; 42 percent say they are very concerned about that happening in the next year, compared to 25 percent of married parents.

In the past six months, unmarried parents say they have been struggling to pay for the necessities of life - more than half have had a harder time paying for food and utility bills, and four in ten have had a harder time paying the rent or mortgage.

(Among unmarried parents)
Utilities: 66 percent
Food/groceries: 54 percent
Housing costs: 41 percent
Medical bills: 38 percent
School fees/tuition*: 33 percent
*asked of parents with children in school

Worries about paying for these necessities over the next year is even higher; between seven and eight in ten single parents are concerned about being able to pay for these basic expenses.

(Among unmarried parents)
Utilities: 82 percent
Medical bills: 75 percent
Food/groceries: 73 percent
Housing costs: 71 percent
School fees/tuition*: 54 percent
*asked of parents with children in school

Married parents have had less difficulty paying all of these bills, and fewer worry about paying them in the future.

One in four unmarried parents has no health insurance, and 14 percent say their child doesn't either. They are nearly twice as likely as married parents to say they have skipped a doctor's appointment for their child because of financial problems resulting from the recession.

Many have had to look to others to help them get by during these tough times. As a result of the recession, in the last six months 45 percent have had to rely on family, friends and neighbors for food or financial assistance, 31 percent have started using food stamps, a community food pantry or a food bank, and 15 percent have relied on assistance from their local church or religious group.

Sarah Dutton is the CBS News director of surveys. Poll Positions is weekly Hotsheet feature on polling trends from the CBS News Survey and Polling Unit. Click here for more posts from the series.
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    Sarah Dutton is the CBS News director of surveys.