Can Low-Income Single Parents Move Up in the Labor Market?

Findings from the Employment Retention and Advancement Project

By Cynthia Miller, Victoria Deitch, Aaron Hill

The Employment Retention and Advancement (ERA) project evaluated strategies to promote employment stability among low-income workers. This 12-page practitioner brief examines the work, education, and training patterns of single parents in the ERA project.

Three years after entering the study, only one in four single parents had advanced. Most of the remaining parents either spent long periods out of work or they lost ground. Single parents who advanced worked more consistently over the study period than other parents and, if they were unemployed, they returned to work more quickly. They experienced faster earnings growth while working than other parents, especially when they changed jobs. At the end of the study period, they worked in better jobs, such as those with higher pay and more benefits, than parents who had not advanced. These findings support other research in underscoring the importance of changing jobs and of access to "good" jobs as strategies to help low-wage workers advance.

Miller, Cynthia, Victoria Deitch, and Aaron Hill. 2011. “Can Low-Income Single Parents Move Up in the Labor Market?.” New York: MDRC.