Life Style

In 2020, women raising their children alone remain poorer

What are families like in 2020? To answer this question, just look at the data published this Monday, September 13 by INSEE on the eve of the Family Conference, the first of its kind for more than ten years, announced for October 5 and 6.

The least that can be said is that families present a strongly contrasting profile. The traditional pattern – two parents living under the same roof as their common children – is declining and now accounts for 66% of the total, while the loneliness of other parents increases, strongly correlated with their poverty.

Thus, one in four families is a single parent, while the number of blended families – that is to say, resulting from the re-union of the parent with whom the children live – remains stable (9%). This growing isolation has a significant economic price: thus, “41% of minor children living in a single-parent family (…) are poor, compared to 21% of all children ”, notes INSEE. In a third of cases, precariousness is further aggravated by unemployment: “The situation of children is then more precarious”, 77% falling into poverty.

46% of children who live with their mother are poor

Above all, this level of precariousness varies greatly depending on whether the children live with their father (18% of cases) or their mother (82%). “22% of children who live only with their father are poor compared to 46% of those who live with their mother”, resumes INSEE, which lists several indicators of this inequality: single fathers are more often owners of their homes (50% against 25%) and less frequently unemployed (10% against 18%).

→ MAINTENANCE. “There is an almost mathematical link between single parenthood and poverty”

Such observations can only be alarming, while children were at the heart of the Strategy to fight poverty launched by Emmanuel Macron in 2018. They also demonstrate that the question of mothers has not been well posed in recent years, considers the sociologist Cécile Bessière, co-author of a remarkable book, The kind of capital (2020, The Discovery).

Women victims of a “historical scam”

According to her, the poverty of mothers after a separation is in fact “The tip of an iceberg: the poverty of women within the couple”. It proposes a method of calculating the incomes of women and men which takes into account family work. “If we add up paid professional work and free domestic work, women in couples with children work 54 hours per week against 51 hours for men in the same situation. Of this total, two-thirds of the hours worked by women correspond to unpaid work: education, poorly distributed household tasks ”, Céline Bessière analysis. The income gap between women and men in a couple with a child reaches 42%.

However, this situation, which escapes the radar during cohabitation, is poorly understood when the couple separate. “Women are then victims of a historical scam”, does not hesitate to denounce Céline Bessière. Three elements have come together in recent years to destabilize them financially. First of all, the decline in marriage has deprived women of certain guarantees, including the payment of a compensatory allowance in the event of divorce.

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In addition, the calculation of this sum, precisely intended to rebalance the accounts after a divorce, has changed and its average amount has melted. Another transfer mechanism, the support payments which must associate the parent who does not have custody of the children with the education costs incurred by the other, very often remain at an insufficient level and are unequally paid.

Finally, another often neglected element plays a major role: the choice of matrimonial regime during cohabitation. If the community of property reduced to acquests remains the rule in the context of marriage – which means that the spouses pool the property they buy -, it is declining. “In recent years, married couples give up more and more often, and opt for the separation of good, which is also the default regime of the PACS. They see it as a guarantee of independence. However, the community was a very powerful tool for redistributing capital within the couple ”, Céline Bessière alert.

Whereas a generation or two ago, in the event of divorce, everyone left with half the value of the house, this is no longer the case: the man who often has a higher salary than the wife and contributed more to this purchase, keeps a larger amount. Inequalities within the couple thus fell from 9% in 1998 to 16% in 2015, according to INED estimates.


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