Current Issue

Single-Parent Families and Public Policy: Evidence from High-Income Countries

Special Editors: Janet C. Gornick, Laurie C. Maldonado, and Amanda Sheely

Vol. 702, July 2022

For the last 100 years, single-parent families have captured the attention of policymakers, social reformers and researchers in the U.S. This attention is well-deserved: single-parent families (especially those headed by women ) are much more likely to be poor than families headed by couples, and the income disadvantage they face is severely felt because it is compounded by food insecurity and precarious housing. Single-parent families have also been hit especially hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, due to both unexpected earnings losses and heightened demands on parents’ time.

Why do single parents tend to be poor? For years, policymakers and scholars have typically assumed that their economic insecurity is best explained by their individual characteristics, like their relative lack of education, employment, and marriage. But this enduring emphasis on individual factors fails to recognize that single parents in the U.S. may be disadvantaged by structural factors unique to our nation.

This volume of the ANNALS looks beyond our shores to see what we have to learn from the experiences of single parent families in other high-income countries that that have different social contexts and different policy regimes. The eleven articles present research that shows how and when the details of public policy matter – and as it turns out, the details matter a lot.

From the Archives

Truth as a Weapon in the Free World
Vol. 278, November, 1951
Richard Brecker

From the Introduction

In an address to the American Society of Newspaper Editors on April 20, 1950, President Truman declared that it was necessary for us to “make ourselves heard round the world in a great campaign of truth.” Calling attention to the vital importance of the psychological front in the present battle for world friendship, the President noted that the task of presenting the truth “to the millions who are uninformed or misinformed or unconvinced… is not separate and distinct from other elements of our foreign policy. It is as important as armed strength or economic aid.  ‘We must,’ he said, ‘pool our efforts with those of the other free peoples in a sustained, intensified program to promote the cause of freedom against the propaganda of slavery.'”