Women as Low Paid Single Mother in the Workforce

The following paper will focus on topic two which is the role of the working mother.  This will focus on the economically poor woman who is holding one or two jobs to support her family.  The paper will also delve into the role of the mother in a sociological perspective.  This research will not involve any human subjects but rather will be based primarily on researched literature given in a compare and contrast fashion that also supports as well as analyzes the role of the low paid mother.There have been many sociologists who have written about the concept of poverty in the United States. Though their views often differ as to the causes, and solutions, the underlying commonality between the sociologists who have written about this issue agree that the current state of the American public is poorer than it has been in decades and this specifically applies to the low paid working mother. There have been many writers, columnists, politicians, sociologists and economists who have written about the concept of poverty in the United States. Though their views often differ as to the causes, and solutions, the underlying commonality between all of those who have written about this issue remains that the current state of the American public is poorer than it has been in decades. The growing problem is affecting the country in many ways. The decrease in overall health of the country, caused by the masses of Americans unable to attain proper health care is only serving to limit the United States in the realms of education, and business success.  Working mothers are often times involved in more than one business venture as even with minimum wage there is little in the way of funding to support the growing number or working mothers.There is a problem with poverty in the United States. The concepts of the “working poor” the “disenfranchised” as well as the general “impoverished” peoples of the United States are growing. The ways in which different writers address, define, and respond to issues such as poverty, can allow for a reader to find their own understanding of the issue – as well as its possible cure.According to Andersen, the main problem of poverty as it is reflected in the working mother is rooted in the residual effects of the pre-Civil Rights era. The accumulation of wealth over time, through inheritance and long term investment is lost on the groups which have been discriminated against since the dawn of the Untied States. Andersen states that “racial exclusion in lending, housing segregation, and historical patterns of discrimination have created significant differences in the contemporary class standing of blacks and whites”. (Andersen 184) This racial disparity was not limited to black and poor whites; it also included Hispanics and Asian-Americans. (185)The problem that Andersen addresses is further exacerbated by the decline in “real wages over the period from the 1970s to the late 1990s”. (185) The fall in the value of the American dollar, coupled with the increased inflation meant that a worker making the median wage in 1989 made $13.22 an hour; however by 1997 that same level wage was only worth $12.63. (185) The lower 80% of wage earners suffered more with a loss of 6.7% of their total wage power.  As mothers make up a great percentage of this ration, it is with their statistics that poverty is truly exemplified.Eugene Lewit addresses the issue of poverty by writing about the number of children living in poverty which in turn is a reflection of the working class mother. Lewit begins his appeal against the growing problem by noting that in 1991 there were 13.7 million children living in poverty in the Untied States – a number that included an increase of nearly one million from the previous year. (Lewit 176) Lewit also noted that the total number of Americans living in poverty in 1991 was over 35 million people – more than 10% of the total population.  Since women are the typical guardians of children, and supporters as in single mothers, and child support cases, the number of children living in poverty only means that the number of mothers living in poverty, who still maintain jobs, is increasing.The next issue that Lewit addresses is the number of problems faced by the impoverished mothers and children in comparison to their affluent counterparts. According to Lewit, “poor children face increased risk of death, infectious and chronic illness, and injury from accidents and violence”. (176) These unique family units of mother and child(ren) also tend to live in conditions which are filled with violence, deteriorating housing, and disrupted living conditions – which increases the likelihood of depression, low self-confidence, and conflict with peers and authority figures. (176)James Fallows approaches the issue of the American poor in a more personal way. In his article “The Invisible Poor”, Fallows describes his discomfort in witnessing the low wage earning cleaning lady who cleaned his office nightly. His work in a software company, and the long commute he faced after each day, led to him staying late in the office to avoid traffic.After the nights repeated several times, Fallows found himself leaving just as he would hear the Russian cleaning woman a few doors away from his own. This caused him to realize his discomfort and take a more in depth look into the increasing problem of the working poorI often stayed late to wait out the traffic. Around 9 p.m. I’d hear a knock on the office door. A woman in her 60’s, wearing a stiff-fabric vest with the logo of an   office-cleaning company, stepped into the room to empty my wastebasket and collect Mountain Dew cans from the recycling bin. She would say something I could barely understand, and I would nod back. It seemed that she was Russian. She walked as if her feet hurt. She did not have the bounce of the people I saw during the day. She kept making her rounds until about midnight. (Fallows)There are no clear answers to the problems that face the women and children who live in poverty in the United States. This mainly stems from the lack of consensus on the causes of this problem. However, this debate of the cause only exacerbates the issue by not offering a viable solution to the perpetuation to the problem. The fact remains that the numbers of women and children in America who are impoverished is increasing. The effects of that poverty are getting worse, and it is harming the country as a whole.Fallows describes the technology boom of the early 1990s as “the same disproportionate, commanding-heights effect on today’s culture as Wall Street’s takeover-and-junk-bond complex had 15 years ago, and as the biotech-financial complex presumably will 15 years from now” – and it grants large fortunes to small groups of people, many of whom began in lower or middle class families. The boom took people who were living as, or at least identifying with the impoverished members of American society and catapulted them into the ultra-elite – amassing fortunes which often topped 100 million dollars.The feelings that Fallows speaks about are rare in the world of the affluent and well-off – those of empathy for the poor. While there are many who have the tendency to be generous, and helpful, because of their social standing and types of people that the wealthy are surrounded by, often those who would be generous are disconnected from those who would benefit most from that generosity.Between these three writers, there is a common thread of though – the poor are getting poorer. This fact is made worse by the disconnection of the wealthy and the poor. This disconnection is caused by the growing gap between the haves, and the have-nots. This gap increases the burden on the poor, mentally, as well as increases the difficulty in finding ways to remedy the causes of the vast amounts of poverty in the Untied States.Fallows ended his article with the realization that problems, like poverty, “are one thing when considered abstractly – “poverty,” “inequality,” “racism,” problems stated as if they were debate topics. They can be altogether different when connected with human beings – real or fictional”. This is true in the fact that all too often the only time poverty is truly addressed in a forum which can eliminate it is during election campaigns – and then only until that election is won.Popenoe also cites an increase in the female workforce as a point of tension. Rising from 19 to 59%, the number mothers who worked were seen by Popenoe as an indication of the instability of the family unit. (531) He also cites this figure when he discussed the increase in marital dissolution. Popenoe indicated that the number of children still living with their biological parents by age 17 had fallen from 73% in 1960 to only 56% in 1989. (531)The decline of the American family, as Popenoe asserts, lies in two main areas: the crumbling of the nuclear family and the decreased stability in childrearing and companionship among American adults. The nuclear family unit, as Popenoe wrote is “the most basic and fundamental unit of the family” – man, wife, child. (539) The breakup of this basic unit then would dismantle the building blocks of natural family function. As the loss of this unit increases, the ability for a society to raise its young decreases. Popenoe claims that the affects of drifting further from the traditional family unit would be felt “for generations to come”. (540)The rise in crime, increased rates of teenage pregnancy, drug use and the increased numbers of children and adults on government assistance are all attributed to the decline of the American family – according to Popenoe. However, his assertions lacked any empirical support. This issue was taken up by Sharon Houseknecht and Jaya Sastry in 1996. The study conducted by the research team looked at the state of the family unit, and sought to find whether the “decline” that Popenoe described was evident or not.The model that the research team used was based on Popenoe’s assertion that those family unites that are furthest away from the “traditional” view of family are “more in decline”. The group took samples from four countries, Sweden, the United Stated, former West Germany, and Italy. Looking at non-marital birthrates, divorce rates, crime rates and child-wellbeing, the group found that, according to Popenoe’s model, Sweden had the greatest decline in the family unit – followed by the United States in second. In the inequality involved in women in the workforce there is a sociological view of how this inequality is categorized:  Kinglsey Davis and Wilbert Moore gave sociology the theory of functionalism.  This theory states that every society separates its products, its money, and its services on the grounds of job difficulty and relevance to a society, or on the function that a specific job provides more for a society.  Due to a job and what gender performs that job function being more important to society or more functional, then society is willing to play the stratification game.  Since these functional jobs and the difference between the assumed capabilities of men or women performing them there is also stratification in monetary reward.  Society has a top echelon of jobs which they consider able to be filled only by a man or only by a women: The lower rung of this system includes mostly the feminine persuasion.  Functionalism fully believes in the rat race of society and exemplifies it through the power elite system and through gender inequality.  Functionalism states that there are critical jobs, ones so important to society (like saving a life) that the measurement of that person’s importance has to be reflected monetarily.  Functionalist expresses inequality through the bases of the nature of the occupational system.  As Davis and Moore state, “Social inequality is thus an unconsciously evolved device by which societies insure that the most important positions are conscientiously filled by the more qualified persons”(Baldridge, 158).For these power elite, their reliance on women maintaining lower level jobs is clear; the contingency exists that without one the other cannot perform.  Job importance is not the value system that functionalism advocates it is merely the way in which society reacts to the class system; it is within the paradigm of society that roles are created which pander to the elitism of the top echelon where men are sought to hold high office.  For a capitalist society this is especially true.  This is worthy of public attention because workers in society are not facing a level playing field but instead are pandering to preconceived notions of gender hierarchy.  The dichotomy of men doing manly jobs (i.e. being the boss, working construction, etc) and women doing feminine labeled jobs (i.e. nursing, secretary, teacher, etc) is an anachronistic concept that is not the standard, or should not be the standard, in the work force presently.  The essay will argue for gender equality for all sexes, and possible ways in which the EEO has supplied this to the work environment.With the EEO gender inequality is threatened; Today, the American workforce has tripled in its numbers since the 60’s and has marginalized the idea of discrimination through equal opportunity statements, yet, that does not necessarily mean that discrimination has dwindled with the rise of the EEOC, according to Jones, As the chief enforcer of anti-discrimination laws, the EEOC must identify and eliminate workplace discrimination, a task easier said than done. Casellas chaired a recent EEOC meeting in Washington, where he revealed that the commission had received 87,600 charges of discrimination in 1995, an increase of about 42% from 1990. This figure includes a backlog of cases. (1996).These numbers represent a harrowing view of what America is supposed to symbolize.  These numbers give credence to the term the working poor, and not just poor but the prejudiced poor.  What these numbers do prove however is that the 42% increase from 1990 signifies more people are fighting against their ‘oppressors’ by taking action and bringing their case to the EEOC.  There is a hidden agenda it seems with treating people as invisible through discrimination, yet, with the installment of the EEOC into the American judicial system cases of hate in the workplace cannot simply slip through the cracks but can be taken to court and hate can be put on trial, and ideally, in a utopia state prejudice does not win and the worker is granted compensation.  The creed of the EEOC speaks toward equality and if a person can work then they should work, and if they’re discriminated against then the worker can feel a small sense of justice by bringing their case to the EEOC.  This is the problem then, the EEOC, though an opportunistic system does not catch all the bad guys, as it were, yet, there are remedies to this situation.With this reality it becomes increasingly clear that women are being discriminated against in the workforce, but more so if they are mothers.  Just because families, or single mothers are moving from welfare to work does not mean that they are above the poverty line.  Although earnings are seemingly increasing mothers who try to live on minimum wage cannot support a family of even one child.In the late 1990s, the study shows, families headed by working single mothers experienced rising earnings due to the strong economy, work supports like the Earned Income Tax Credit and child care, and a reformed welfare system. Yet these increased earnings were fully offset by a decline in the benefits that government safety net programs provide, leaving these families no better off as a group and pushing those who remained poor deeper into poverty (CBPP 2001). This report centers around the effects of welfare reform and how although welfare is steadily decreasing the number of families, especially working mothers who rely on it, that does not necessitate the cure of poverty, it represents merely a numbers game.Families who had single mothers as their figurehead were by far the main components who were in need of welfare have been forced to rely on work instead.  A person who is on welfare has a steady source of income yet may spend time making sure that their children are raised correctly.  The welfare to work ideal means that mothers are now away from the home and are not bringing in as much money as they would on welfare.  In accordance with the need for welfare, or rather in revelation of the low paid single mother thesis of this paper the poverty rate of single mothers failed to decrease between 1995 and 1999, “The poverty rate among people in these families, after government benefits and taxes are taken into account, was 19.4 percent in 1999, about the same level as in 1995, when it stood at 19.2 percent. Among other families with children, by contrast, the poverty rate dropped during this period” (CBPP 2001).Poverty in the dynamic of the single-mother family has declined between 1993 and 1995.  This is partly due to the fact that these families were given increased earnings from 1993-1999.  The benefits of the working mother however were increased and thus the increased earnings that the poor working mother had been given were cancelled out by the government’s inattention to detail, Declines in the food stamp and cash assistance benefits that working single-mother families received played a particularly large role in these developments, “Although large numbers of mothers have begun working, our findings suggest that safety net programs and the Earned Income Tax Credit are vital to supporting work and keeping these families out of poverty,” noted Kathryn Porter, the report’s lead author” (CBPP 2001).This research project has delved into the highlighting factors or the continual statistics found with the single mother and the poverty line.  The literature provided supported the paper’s theory on the single mother and the consensus with the sociological perspective that these women although trying to work their way out of poverty are stuck in a cycle of government bureaucracy and stilted programs.Different policies were initiated in support of the single mother but since the decline of welfare and the initiation of from welfare to work has been instituted, these women no longer receive the aid with which they had based their lifestyle and around.  Such items as food stamps, insurance, and housing programs have systematically been stripped from their funding and have declined or become completely obsolete.  Although the statistics show that welfare recipients are decreasing at a steady rate, this only reflects the turnaround initiated by the government in pushing people off of welfare.  This turn around rate only gives the recipient a few months or up to a year before they have to get a job and no longer receive payments from the government.The struggle of the low paid single mother is emphasized with the fact that she is supporting often times more than one child.  The cost of a babysitter, as well travel funds to and from work are all incorporated into the budgeting schematic of the low paid single mother.  She is often times forced to work more than one job in order to support her family.  These long hours as a wage earner do not afford her with healthcare not any other benefit.  The social system needs to implement new policies in order to incorporate the perspective of the low paid single mother.They reflect a disparaging insight into American society in that they are representative of an entire class and are by no means an anomaly but exist throughout the entire nation.  It is with this recognition, that low paid single mothers are the majority of the people living beneath the poverty line.