Female-headed households, living arrangements, and poverty in Mexico

Shin, Heeju, 1973-
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Given the growth of households headed by women, one of the biggest social concerns is the high poverty level within these households. Studies have shown that individuals living in female-headed households are more likely to be in poverty than those in other types of households due to women's disadvantaged position in the labor market. However, the disadvantage of women in the labor market does not necessarily lead to poverty within households headed by women. The livelihood of female-headed households is determined by contextual factors as well as the labor market condition, because the labor market, family and welfare policies all contribute to family well-being within a particular national context. Using both quantitative and qualitative method, I examine various components that are associated with social and family life of Mexican female heads and single mothers: living arrangements, household practices, the labor market, and welfare policy. Interview data with Mexican single mothers provide this research with basic research questions as well as evidences supporting the findings of quantitative analyses about the association between poverty and those women. Quantitative data analyses show that kinship network is important resources of welfare of female-headed or single-mother households in Mexico. First, the prevalence of female-headed households in Mexico is associated with gender-specific migration, increased economic opportunities for women, and marriage-market conditions. Second, Mexican female heads have household income relatively higher than or equivalent to that of male heads, and this peculiarity is attributed to the financial support to female-headed households provided by family networks, and to the selection process of single mothers. Third, extended family members residing with mothers affect their time allocation, and the effects vary by the gender of the extended family member and the mothers' marital status.