Unpartnered Mothers, Living Arrangements, and Poverty: A Cross-national Comparison

Raymo, James M., Timothy Smeeding, Kathryn Edwards, and Hillary Caruthers
Working paper no. 2014-06


We examine relationships between living arrangements and the economic well-being of unpartnered mothers relative to partnered mothers in five countries—Australia, Germany, Korea, the U.K. and the U.S. Using harmonized data from the Cross-National Equivalent File (CNEF), we demonstrate marked cross-national differences in the living arrangements of ‘unpartnered’ mothers, with lone-mother households relatively common in Germany and coresidence with parents common in the U.S. and Korea. There are also clear differences in the economic benefits that unpartnered mothers derive from coresidence with parents and others, which are most pronounced in Australia, but relatively limited in the U.S. These findings have implications for understanding the ways in which unpartnered parenthood and living arrangements contribute to differences in levels of poverty and inequality across countries and in comparison to the United States.