STATE OF OPPORTUNITY. Can Kids in Michigan Get Ahead?
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This special reporting project wrapped up in May 2017. Read more.

As it turns out, it really does take a village to raise a child

Gabi Menashe

Well hello there! How have you been? It's been a while since my last post – three months, to be exact. I've been out on maternity leave and just got back to work and I have to say, I have a newfound respect for single parents.

To you single mothers and fathers out there, I say bravo. I don't know how you do it. (Many of the folks we report on here at State of Opportunity come from single-parent households or are single parents themselves. According to the National Poverty Center, poverty rates are "highest for families headed by single women, particularly if they are black or Hispanic.")

Let me be clear: I am not single. I have the most wonderful, loving husband who also happens to be a fantastic father. And pretty much every day of my maternity leave I would say to him some variation of "I couldn't do this without you." 

And then there was EVERYONE ELSE who stepped in to help: Our parents who watched our daughter when we were zombies and thought we'd never see sleep again; our friends who filled our home with delicious home-cooked meals; our neighbors who shoveled our sidewalk while we were in the hospital having a baby; my mom pals who were on speed dial to answer any baby questions I had ... and on and on and on.

All of this got me thinking about just how important it is to have a strong social network.

In our discussions of poverty, we often talk in terms of dollars and cents, but I would argue that having a strong social netis as important as money. Indeed, some experts say developing a social net is a great anti-poverty strategy.

And yet, building a social network takes time, something many people in poverty just don’t have.

One of our oh-so-talented interns, Gabrielle Emanuel, blogged about this so-called "time poverty" issue and how pervasive it is among folks in poverty:

How much time you have directly impacts your opportunities and your well-being. Research on social mobility shows how important it is to make connections with people across different socioeconomic groups. But when you don’t have free time you don’t have the opportunity to meet and connect with others – much less pursue the education or training that could move you up the economic ladder.

And she goes on to say that this concept of "time poverty" is especially trying for single parents. 

Consider single parents. If we only look at income, a two-parent household with one working parent might have the same resources as a single working parent. Both households have just one income to support the family. But the single parent has far less time available to them and their children and challenges quickly begin to mount.

Nobody said raising children would be easy, but think how much harder it is when you have the odds already stacked against you.

Jennifer is a reporter with Michigan Radio's State of Opportunity project. She previously covered arts and culture for the station, and worked as a producer for WFUV in the Bronx.
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