Public Policies, Private Support and Single Mothers' Schooling, Work, and Child Care

by Lingxin Hao, Arleen Leibowitz


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This paper examines whether low-cost child care that is tied to single mothers' productive activities increases the likelihood of their schooling and work. Child care opportunities open to single mothers include coresident kin and certain public programs, e.g., subsidized child care places, AFDC earned income disregards for child care expenses, and child care tax credits for mothers who are attending school or working. Also examined in the paper is whether public programs are substitutes for kin support in affecting unmarried mothers' schooling, work, and, for enrolled or working women, child care type. Findings include: (1) public policies tied to single mothers' performance can stimulate their schooling and work, while those that are not tied to performance can deter productive activities; (2) living with kin increases schooling and work among unmarried mothers; (3) public programs tend not to substitute for kin support, in particular, not to reduce kin's incentives to care for children.

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