Single, childless Women Outpace Their Male Counterparts


Less than 50 years ago, women weren’t allowed to open a line of credit without a husband or male co-signer. The traditional expectation of a woman getting married, homemaking, and having children might seem antiquated—but it’s not that old. 

An increasing number of women choose to live a single, unmarried life. These women are focusing on their careers, friendships and personal growth. This is a radical departure from misogynistic stereotypes. 

These women, it turns out are very intelligent. A healthy lifestyle. A 2019 report from the St. Louis Federal Reserve Bank showed the median wealth for single men and women—both with children and without—and the results were surprising.

While single men without children have a median family wealth of $57,000, single women without children’s media family wealth is $65,000, according to the Reserve’s research.

The earning power of childless women is greater than that of their male counterparts, with more disposable income and a happier outlook. So it’s unsurprising that a 2021 Pew Research Center study found that 44% of Americans aged 18-49 likely or definitely won’t have children.

A family’s wealth is a measure of their financial security. It can affect how secure they feel about housing, food, and other financial matters. For single women, these numbers are great news. However, the results of the study are not encouraging for women who have children.

How Children Affect Women’s Wealth

Gender inequality is not new to this country. However, the gap between single mothers’ and fathers’ wealth is astounding. While single men with children have an average wealth of $59,000, a single mom’s average median wealth is $7,000. 

No, that’s not a typo, and we didn’t forget a number. A single mother’s average wealth is less than 11% of a single, childless woman’s and 12% of a single father’s. For minorities, it’s even worse—single white mothers had around $46,000 in median wealth in 2019. Black mothers and Hispanic/Latina mothers were able to get around $4,000. 

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All this data shows that there seems to be very little or no professional penalty for parents of children. Single moms are particularly vulnerable to the motherhood penalty. 

“Motherhood penalty”Refers to the financial and professional difficulties experienced by mothers of children. This could be anything from being fired to something passive such as not being offered promotions or raises.

Julie Kashen, director for women’s economic justice at the Century Foundation, told Bloomberg that the motherhood penalty shakes out to around 15% of a woman’s annual income for each child under the age of five.

A Woman’s Right To Choose Shouldn’t Affect Her Wealth

Motherhood penalty is a double-edged blade. It’s also far more pervasive and complex than a simple “men vs. women” argument. While the gender pay gap is very real, the stark difference between women’s wealth with and without children is even greater. 

This all but strips many women of the right to have both children and a career—or, at the very least, financial stability. Brookings InstitutionEstimates suggest that raising a child from the age of 17 costs around $300,000. A median household wealth of $7,000 makes it difficult for single mothers to make ends meet. 

However, it reduces the pressure on women who don’t want to have children. Women who are single or childless have been long judged by society. Yes, motherhood does have its share of guilt. But the guilt of NotBeing a parent is not an easy task. The Reserve’s report shows that childless women aren’t just surviving—they’re flourishing. 

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Considering just how recently women earned the right to professional and financial autonomy, it’s emboldening to see single, childless women outpacing their male counterparts. Society can hopefully close the gap for those with kids.

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