This paper examines why the rate of poverty is higher among single black mothers than among single white mothers. The paper presents findings from a library based research. Analysis of library sources indicates that there are many factors that contribute to a higher rate of poverty among single black mothers as compared to single white mothers. The paper establishes that lack of clear policies and measures to improve the living conditions and prospects for single black women leads to their increasingly impoverished lives.

The policies on childcare, pension and discrimination, which are in place, favor the single white women.

Statement of the problem

Poverty denotes lack of minimum basic needs necessary to maintain life .i.e. food, clothing, healthcare, basic education and shelter. The poor in this case are those people who do not have the opportunity to lead a comfortable or a descent standard of living due to a compromised financial position in society.

Poor people have very low incomes compared to the ‘nation’s median income’. A nation’s median income is the average income of individuals in a nation. Poverty among single black mothers is on the increase. On the other hand, statistics show that poverty is reducing among single white mothers. Single black mothers have been susceptible to low income wages and live below poverty line than their single white mothers (Farley, 2009, 21).

This research’s aim was to establish why this worrying trend persists.


Despite there being many reasons that could explain why poverty levels among single black mother is higher than among single white mothers, this research hypothesized that the white population has more employment prospects than their black friends. Therefore, single white mothers have more prospects of earning a living than the single black mothers.


It is an established fact that, generally, poverty rates are higher among black Americans than among the white Americans. Therefore, it is not very surprising that poverty rates are higher among single black mothers than among single white mothers. Several factors have been proffered to explain this trend across America. Whenever one considers poverty, education as a driver of social mobility can not be ignored.

The quality of one’s education enables him or her to lead a good life because education enables one to possess a higher chance of securing a better job (Farley, 2009, p. 78). Educationally, single black mothers are more disadvantaged compared to single white mothers.

Lack of right qualifications, mean that less single black women, as compared to single white women, meet the challenging job market requirements. The education standards of most single black mothers has made them predisposed for smaller and not well paid job thus not accumulating enough wages to support themselves and the family they support. This is in contrast with the single white women who considerably posses better education to facilitate a chance of getting a well paying job thereby uplifting their living standards and the families they support (Farley, 2009, p.

58). Beyond the lack of right qualifications huddle, accessing jobs or opportunities by black women is relatively harder as compared to white women with same qualifications. Although equity is a principle that guides employment policies in America, discrimination is subtly practiced by employers. Given the white fraternity controls a bigger share of the economy, it is easier to access opportunities among the white folk than among black folks. As a result, many single black mothers will be found working in low paying profession or in basic jobs like domestic work. Many young black women spend a lot of time searching for their first jobs and it takes longer for the job to come by.

This is because the employers feel reluctant to offer them an opportunity. In employment, it has been established that big wage disparities exist between white women and black women. The disparity in wages between the single black women and white has been attributed to enhancement of poverty (Vaz, 1995, p. 42).

Majority of black women do not earn as much money as their counterpart white women in a similar job category (Vaz, 1995, p. 46). Earning power determines social mobility.

If the earning power of white women is higher than that of black women then, definitely, rate of poverty among blacks will be higher than among whites. The environment and surrounding conditions are also viewed to drive the increase in poverty among single black mothers. Black women are known to be strong and adaptable to any situation. However, they are also known to be rebellious against the status quo (Fischer, 2006, p. 124). This may be a stereotype but there is some sense in the stereotype.

Although they are strong and powerful in their demeanor, many single black women lack trust in the systems in place. This lack of system leads to either a superiority or inferiority complex that affects their chances. The surrounding or environmental conditions in which they live support the stereotypes and do not expose them to necessary challenges or opportunities. Most single black mothers were born in relatively dysfunctional families characterized by domestic strife; wife battering and abuse is more common among blacks than among whites. Family dysfunctionality and general impoverished surroundings in which they are born and raised necessitates higher rates of poverty among single black mothers as compared to single white mothers. Further, being more economically challenged means that black women have less access to good childcare facilities.

Often, child cares is a big issue for mothers; more so when they are single. Worry about child care denies many single mothers the freedom to go out and fight for empowering job opportunities. Single white mothers have more access to good childcare due to relative economic advantage. Therefore, they are able to live children in child care centers while they focus on other issues e.g. working or hunting for jobs that bring awesome economic fruits.

Moreover, discrimination has influenced the rising level of poverty among the single black women. According to Farley (2009, 118) even black men discriminate against single black women especially if they are dark skinned. The situation is worse for single black mothers because it means double discrimination. On one level, they are discriminated against for being black and on another level; they are looked down upon for being single mothers. The idea of single white woman is more acceptable than single black woman. Black Americans tend towards more traditional family values. For example, sex and child bearing is traditionally taken to be a preserve for married couples (Fischer, 2006, p. 32).

The life styles of black Americans, generally, contribute to increasing poverty levels among blacks as compared to white Americans. Successful black Americans tend to be showy and mega in spending. A close look at American black musicians will illustrate this point. Modesty is practiced but its definition for successful blacks is not inline with being reserved or measured about spending.

For the unsuccessful black Americans, their lifestyle in the ghettos is characterized by acts bordering on crime and hooliganism. There are more drug abuse related cases in black neighborhoods than in white neighborhoods. Some black single mothers also participate in the excesses of their subculture thus accounting for why single white mothers may be doing well financially than the blacks. Additionally, although not conclusive, researchers have indicated their being a link between lifestyle and higher obesity cases among black Americans (Vaz, 1995, p. 201). There are relatively higher stress levels and some related eating disorders among blacks that contribute to higher obesity cases among black Americans. Secondly, blacks generally have access to poor health facilities.

As Fischer (2006, p. 16) explains, poor medical care is more expensive. When an individual accesses poor medical care, the chances of poor diagnosis are higher and so are chances of poor prescription. In case right prescriptions are done, the chances of poor administration of medication are very high. Poor health has been known to reduce labor force participation (Vaz, 1995, p. 116).

Discrimination has made the black woman to experience hardships thereby contributing to poverty that they live with. This is a huge challenge because their little income has to support the family because of the responsibility that a she posse in the family has the bread winner and care giver. The white on the other hand has enjoyed the privilege of un-discrimination; she has benefitted much on job placements and better pay. She does not face job discrimination as long as she has the right qualification and education required. The reluctance in hiring by employers is minimal and hence it eliminates the susceptibility of stress related illness which might create poor health in their lifestyle (Vaz, 1995, p.

78). This enables them to have more opportunities at their disposal to better their life and live above poverty line. The view of class hierarchy as an internalized norm among the black, generally, has also increased the poverty levels among their ranks and by extension the high rate among single black mothers. Black women tend towards thinking and feeling like they rightfully belong to the lowest cadre in the class hierarchy, in the United States (Farley, 2009, 203). There is a general latent feeling about the class hierarchy that tends to place white men at the top, then white women, followed by the black men and lastly black women (Farley, 2009, 207). This kind of thinking or subconscious disposition has eroded the confidence of the black women affecting their chances of working hard and earning the standard of life they deserve. Among blacks themselves, hierarchy is more visible because women are associated mainly with domestic chores. Nationally, there is a latent belief or stereotype that black women are best disposed towards role of esteemed domestic worker.

This latent stereotypes affect some black women’s thinking or focus towards believing that the can not achieve more than being a domestic worker. The black woman is viewed as a domestic worker in the society (Vaz, 1995, p. 88). In contrast, the white woman has not been a big victim of hierarchy placing and related psychological emotions. White ladies have generally enjoyed dignity and stature thereby enabling them to focus on ways of achieving greater goals and success in life. The benefit system has favored aggravation of poverty (Fischer, 2006, p. 44).

The black single mothers have little access to benefits from say welfare schemes or motherhood related opportunities unlike the white counterparts. An elaborate and improved method of dissemination of welfare information should be made easily available. There should be changes to the system to benefit all the single black women so that they can have access support when their income is not enough.

Most single white women are adequately covered and hence enjoy more benefits and this lowers down their bills ensuring better living standards. Lack of assets, loan facilities and poor savings have played a role in contributing to the growth of poverty among single black women. Due to society wide black women disenfranchisement or marginalization, they do not have property or assets that they can use to benefit from financial products e.

g. loan facility from financial institutions. This has disadvantaged them in the quest to get above the poverty line.

They are crippled by financial exclusion i.e. majority of single black women do not have access to bank loaning and saving facilities (Fischer, 2006, p. 279).


There are many factors to explain why the rate of poverty is higher among single black women than among single white women. These factors range from latent stereotypes held by the society, discrimination, lack of access to financial services, lack of right qualifications to access jobs, limiting beliefs among the black folk and historical disfranchisement of the black community that has continued to bear on their economic situation. The policy makers have to be continually vigilant towards identifying marginalized groups and catering for their characteristic needs. In the light of this research paper, single black mothers are a marginalized group with many odds against them.

Continuous improvement of education systems to better serve all citizens is a necessary step towards parity in the American society. Although open discrimination is a thing of the past, the American society remains a latently balkanized society. Programs that target cultural stereotypes and life style ills have to be devised towards debunking some wrong myths or beliefs held about different members of society.

Reference List

Farley, J. E. (2009).

Majority-Minority Relations. New York: Prentice Hall. Fischer, K. P.

(2006). America in White, Black, and Gray: The Stormy 1960s.New York: Continuum International Publishing Group. Vaz, K. M. (1995). Black Women in America.

California: Sage Publications.


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