One out of five young parents lives in poverty

Emily DeRuy
Getty Images/Adam Berry

Young American parents today are struggling to get by in a world whose infrastructure and government may be more suited to the young parents of past generations.

Faced with a lack of affordable childcare and rigid work policies, parents between the ages of 18 and 34 are now more likely to live in poverty than young parents at any point in the last quarter century, according to a new report from Young Invincibles, a left-leaning nonprofit that advocates on behalf of young people.


Crunching Census data, the group found that one out of five parents between the ages of 18 and 34 live in poverty. They have lower wages, stagnant unemployment, and rising costs, including childcare and their own higher education. Young parents shoulder more student debt than their non-parent peers, meaning putting away a college fund for their children isn't realistic for many.

So it's really no wonder that people in their 20s are having fewer babies.

But as Young Invincibles notes, there are still 20.5 million parents between the ages of 18 and 34, nearly a third of the total population in that age range. And according to a recent study from the Pew Research Center, three-quarters of unmarried, childless people surveyed in that range say they want kids.


"The world is changing rapidly," writes report author Konrad Mugglestone, "and being a parent presents unique challenges to the way Millennials work, learn, and live."

Gone are the days when one parent went to work and another stayed home to care for children, and childcare costs present a huge burden for today's young parents, according to the report.


And like their older peers, the burden of childcare still falls disproportionately and persistently on young women, who work fewer hours than young fathers.


Also different today is the fact that young people—both parents and non-parents—are pursuing higher education at higher rates than previous generations. Yet, schools haven't kept up with changing faces of the students they educate, the report says, noting that they often fail to provide childcare options that would help parents earn a degree.

Instead, young parents are disproportionately likely to go to school and work at "nontraditional" times—taking evening classes and working midnight shifts so they can care for their children during the day.


The rising cost of college and a lack of affordable childcare and paid leave, the report says, have made it difficult for young parents to succeed.


Young Invincibles cites government data showing that in 1960, childcare and education represented just two percent of the cost of raising a child. In 2013, they accounted for 18 percent.


Some parents, according to the report, are missing opportunities to advance their own careers because they are forced to stay home with their children in the absence of childcare.

"[T]hese findings demonstrate that we expect Millennials to do more with less," Mugglestone writes.


Ultimately, the report urges policymakers to expand childcare options on college campuses, institute mandatory paid leave policies, and create flexible workspaces.

"If we can make childcare more accessible and affordable, work more flexible, and education more achievable," Konrad argues, "we can secure a better future not only for Millennial parents but the next generation."


Emily DeRuy is a Washington, D.C.-based associate editor, covering education, reproductive rights, and inequality. A San Francisco native, she enjoys Giants baseball and misses Philz terribly.

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