Date of Award

Spring 2017


M. S. in Economic Theory and Policy


Ajit Zacharias, Ph.D.


This study focuses on the the employment and economic wellbeing of single female-headed households in the United States in the years 2004, 2007, 2010 and 2013. This has been examined from two vantage points: a Heckman Selection Model shows that the reservation wage for the nonemployed single female heads is lower than the employed single female heads. This indicates a lack of suitable jobs for the nonemployed single female heads. The other mode of investigation involves an economic wellbeing analysis of single female heads using the Levy Institute Measure of Economic Wellbeing. The LIMEW analysis shows that while the gap in money income between the two groups is large, it is rather small in terms of the LIMEW. This is mainly because the nonemployed receive much more in transfers from the government, pay less taxes and have a higher value for household production. Both employed and nonemployed single female heads are net recipients of government benefits. The bulk of transfers include non means-tested benefits such as Social Security and means-tested medical benefits such as Medicaid. The employed have some employer contribution to health but the nonemployed have no other recourse than depending on the government for medical benefits. Higher care responsibilities, lower levels of education and lower reported levels of health status are impediments to the nonemployed single female heads from reaping the full benefits of employment. This indicates that some women in this group of would benefit from suitable jobs with benefits such as adequate childcare provisions and paid leave.

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