Job insecurity and child well-being in single-parent families in Europe: A matter of family and gender policy




child deprivation, gender equality, labour market, multilevel analysis, poverty


Objective: The aim of this article is to extend our knowledge about child deprivation in single-parent families from a comparative European perspective. We first analyse the relationship between the employment status of single parents and child deprivation. Furthermore, we examine whether gender equality in the labour market and family cash benefits reduce deprivation and alleviate the consequences of unemployment and employment precariousness.

Background: Children from single-parent families suffer deprivation mainly due to their parents' job insecurity and the fact that, in general, there is only one breadwinner in their households, usually a woman.  However, the situation of these children may differ between European countries according to gender equality and family policies.

Method: We use cross-sectional data from the European Union Statistics on Income and Living Conditions 2014 and multilevel logistic regressions. The analysis is based on a sample of single-parent households (N = 5910) from 28 European countries.

Results: The results indicate that temporary employment and unemployment are associated with a greater risk of child deprivation in single-parent families. The results also show that gender equality in the labour market reduces child deprivation, especially in families where the parent has a temporary employment. Redistributive family policies have a more limited impact.

Conclusion: The main findings indicate that advances in gender equality in the labour market are essential to combat child deprivation in single-parent families in Europe.


Albelda, R., Himmelweit, S., & Humphries, J. (2005). The dilemmas of lone motherhood: Essays from feminist economics. Routledge. DOI:

Almeda, E., Vergés Bosch, N., Obiol, S., & Moreno Mínguez, A. (2016). Monoparentalidades y políticas públicas: Prestaciones económicas y permisos parentales. Arxius de Ciencias Sociales, 34, 43–58.

Álvares, L., & Amaral, T. F. (2014). Food insecurity and associated factors in the Portuguese population. Food and Nutrition Bulletin, 35(4), 395–402. DOI:

Arcanjo, M., Bastos, A., Nunes, F., & Passos, J. (2013). Child poverty and the reform of family cash benefits. The Journal of Socio-Economics, 43, 11–23. DOI:

Bárcena-Martín, E., Blázquez, M., Budría, S., & Moro-Egido, A. I. (2017). Child deprivation and social benefits: Europe in cross-national perspective. Socio-Economic Review, 15(4), 717–744. DOI:

Benito, A. (2006). Does job insecurity affect household consumption? Oxford Economic Papers, 58(1), 157–181. DOI:

Bernardi, F., & Boertien, D. (2017). Non-intact families and diverging educational destinies: A decomposition analysis for Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom and the United States. Social Science Research, 63, 181–191. DOI:

Brady, D., Finnigan, R. M., & Hübgen, S. (2017). Rethinking the risks of poverty: A framework for analyzing prevalences and penalties. American Journal of Sociology, 123(3), 740–786. DOI:

Brand, J. E., & Simon Thomas, J. (2014). Job displacement among single mothers: Effects on children’s outcomes in young adulthood. American Journal of Sociology, 119(4), 955–1001. DOI:

Brown, S. L., Manning, W. D., & Payne, K. K. (2016). Family structure and children’s economic well-being: Incorporating same-sex cohabiting mother families. Population Research and Policy Review, 35(1), 1–21. DOI:

Cantalini, S. (2017). Does education affect the timing or probability of family formation?: An analysis of educational attainment and first union in Italy. Research in Social Stratification and Mobility, 49, 1–10. DOI:

Chirumbolo, A., Callea, A., & Urbini, F. (2021). The effect of job insecurity and life uncertainty on everyday consumptions and broader life projects during Covid-19 pandemic. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 18(10), 5363. DOI:

Christopher, K. (2002). Single motherhood, employment, or social assistance: Why are U.S. women poorer than women in other affluent nations? Journal of Poverty, 6(2), 61–80. DOI:

Chzhen, Y. (2017). Unemployment, social protection spending and child poverty in the European Union during the Great Recession. Journal of European Social Policy, 27(2), 123–137. DOI:

Chzhen, Y., & Bradshaw, J. (2012). Lone parents, poverty and policy in the European Union. Journal of European Social Policy, 22(5), 487–506. DOI:

Chzhen, Y., Bruckauf, Z., & Toczydlowska, E. (2018). Monitoring progress towards sustainable development: Multidimensional child poverty in the European Union. Journal of Poverty and Social Justice, 26(2), 129–150. DOI:

Chzhen, Y., & de Neubourg, C. (2014). Multiple overlapping deprivation analysis for the European Union (EU-MODA): Technical note. UNICEF Office of Research Working Paper, WP-2014-01. UNICEF Office of Research, Florence.

Chzhen, Y., de Neubourg, C., Plavgo, I., & de Milliano, M. (2016). Child poverty in the European Union: The multiple overlapping deprivation analysis approach (EU-MODA). Child Indicators Research, 9(2), 335–356. DOI:

Eamon, M. K., & Wu, C.-F. (2011). Effects of unemployment and underemployment on material hardship in single-mother families. Children and Youth Services Review, 33(2), 233–241. DOI:

Eichhorst, W., & Tobsch, V. (2017). Risk of precariousness: Results from European working conditions survey 2010 and 2015. Economy and Scientific Policy, European Parliament.

EIGE (2017). Gender equality index 2017: Methodological report.

Engster, D., & Stensöta, H. O. (2011). Do family policy regimes matter for children’s well-being? Social Politics: International Studies in Gender, State & Society, 18(1), 82–124. DOI:

Esping-Andersen, G. (1999). Social foundations of post-industrial economics. Oxford University Press DOI:

Esping-Andersen, G., & Billari, F. C. (2015). Re-theorizing family demographics. Population and Development Review, 41(1), 1–31. DOI:

European Commission (2014). 2014 module on material deprivation (guidelines and questionnaire). [retrieved July 15, 2021]

Eurostat (2019). European system of integrated social protection statistics: ESSPROS, manuals and user guidelines: 2019 edition. [retrieved July 15, 2021]

Eurostat (2021). EU statistics on income and living conditions microdata. [retrieved July 15, 2021]

Ferrera, M. (2005). Welfare state reform in Southern Europe: Fighting poverty and social exclusion in Greece, Italy, Spain and Portugal. Routledge. DOI:

Figari, F. (2012). Cross-national differences in determinants of multiple deprivation in Europe. The Journal of Economic Inequality, 10(3), 397–418. DOI:

Flaquer, L. (2021). Shared parenting after separation and divorce in Europe in the context of the Second Demographic Transition. In A.-M. Castrén, V. Česnuitytė, I. Crespi, J.-A. Gauthier, R. Gouveia, C. Martin, A. Moreno Mínguez, & K. Suwada (Eds.), The palgrave handbook of family sociology in Europe (pp. 377–398). Springer International Publishing. DOI:

Fokkema, T., & Liefbroer, A. C. (2008). Trends in living arrangements in Europe: Convergence or divergence? Demographic Research, 19(36), 1351–1418. DOI:

Garriga, A., Sarasa, S., & Berta, P. (2015). Mother’s educational level and single motherhood: Comparing Spain and Italy. Demographic Research, 33(42), 1165–1210. DOI:

Getz Wold, E. (2012). Single parents-single outcomes? The economic welfare of single parent households in eleven European countries. University of Oslo. [retrieved December 18, 2021]

Gornick, J. C., & Jäntti, M. (2012). Child poverty in cross-national perspective: Lessons from the Luxembourg Income Study. Children and Youth Services Review, 34(3), 558–568. DOI:

Gornick, J. C., & Meyers, M. K. (2003). Families that work—Policies for reconciling parenthood and employment. Russell Sage Foundation

Guio, A.-C., Marlier, É., Vandenbroucke, F., & Verbunt, P. (2020). Micro- and macro-drivers of child deprivation in 31 European countries. Eurostat Statistical Working Papers.

Hakovirta, M., & Jokela, M. (2019). Contribution of child maintenance to lone mothers’ income in five countries. Journal of European Social Policy, 29(2), 257–272. DOI:

Hakovirta, M., Kuivalainen, S., & Rantalaiho, M. (2013). Welfare state support of lone parents- Nordic approaches to a complex and ambiguous policy issue. In I. Harsløf & R. Ulmestig (Eds.), Changing social risks and social policy responses in the Nordic welfare states (pp. 50-74). Palgrave Macmillan. DOI:

Härkönen, J. (2018). Single-mother poverty: How much do educational differences in single motherhood matter? In R. Nieuwenhuis & L. C. Maldonado (Eds.), The triple bind of single-parent families: Resources, employment and policies to improve wellbeing (pp. 31–50). Policy Press. DOI:

Härkönen, J., Bernardi, F., & Boertien, D. (2017). Family dynamics and child outcomes: An overview of research and open questions. European Journal of Population, 33(2), 163–184. DOI:

Hastings, O. P., & Schneider, D. (2021). Family structure and inequalities in parents’ financial investments in children. Journal of Marriage and Family, 83(3), 717–736. DOI:

Heflin, C., Sandberg, J., & Rafail, P. (2009). The structure of material hardship in U.S. households: An examination of the coherence behind common measures of well-being. Social Problems, 56(4), 746–764. DOI:

Heisig, J. P., & Schaeffer, M. (2019). Why you should always include a random slope for the lower-level variable involved in a cross-level interaction. European Sociological Review, 35(2), 258–279. DOI:

Hox, J. (2010). Multilevel analysis: Techniques and applications. Routledge. DOI:

Huber, E. & Stephens, J. (2006). Combating old and new social risks. In K. Armingeon, & G. Bonoli (Eds.), The politics of post-industrial welfare states: Adapting post-war social policies to new social risks (pp. 143 –168). Routledge.

Ichino, A., Mealli, F., & Nannicini, T. (2008). From temporary help jobs to permanent employment: What can we learn from matching estimators and their sensitivity? Journal of Applied Econometrics, 23(3), 305–327. DOI:

Kalil, A., & Ziol-Guest, K. M. (2005). Single mothers’ employment dynamics and adolescent well-being. Child Development, 76(1), 196–211. DOI:

Kiernan, K. (2004). Cohabitation and divorce across nations and generations. In P. L. Chase-Lansdale, K. Kiernan, & R. J. Friedman (Eds.), Human development across lives and generations (pp. 139–170). Cambridge University Press. DOI:

Kilkey, M. (2000). Lone mothers between paid work and care. The policy regime in twenty countries. Ashgate.

Korpi, W. (2000). Faces of inequality: Gender, class, and patterns of inequalities in different types of welfare states. Social Politics: International Studies in Gender, State & Society, 7(2), 127–191. DOI:

Laß, I., & Wooden, M. (2020). Temporary employment contracts and household income. Social Indicators Research, 147, 111–132. DOI:

Layte, R., Whelan, C. T., Maitre, B., & Nolan, B. (2001). Explaining levels of deprivation in the European Union. Acta Sociologica, 44(2), 105–121. DOI:

Lesthaeghe, R. (2010). The unfolding story of the Second Demographic Transition. Population and Development Review, 36(2), 211–251. DOI:

Luci-Greulich, A., & Thévenon, O. (2013). The impact of family policies on fertility trends in developed countries. European Journal of Population / Revue Européenne de Démographie, 29(4), 387–416. DOI:

Main, G. (2014). Child poverty and children’s subjective well-being. Child Indicators Research, 7(3), 451–472. DOI:

Maldonado, L. C., & Nieuwenhuis, R. (2015). Family policies and single parent poverty in 18 OECD countries, 1978–2008. Community, Work & Family, 18(4), 395–415. DOI:

Martin, G., & Kats, V. (2003). Families and work in transition in 12 countries, 1980-2001. Monthly Labor Review, 9, 3–31.

Mclanahan, S. (2004). Diverging destinies: How children are faring under the second demographic transition. Demography, 41(4), 607–627. DOI:

McLanahan, S., & Percheski, C. (2008). Family structure and the reproduction of inequalities. Annual Review of Sociology, 34(1), 257–276. DOI:

Meil, G. (2015). Familia. In C. Torres Albero (Ed.), España 2015. Situación social (pp. 289–402). Centro de Investigaciones Sociológicas.

Misra, J., Moller, S., & Budig, M. J. (2007). Work—family policies and poverty for partnered and single women in Europe and North America. Gender & Society, 21(6), 804–827. DOI:

Misra, J., Moller, S., Strader, E., & Wemlinger, E. (2012). Family policies, employment and poverty among partnered and single mothers. Research in Social Stratification and Mobility, 30(1), 113–128. DOI:

Moreno Mínguez, A. (2005). Empleo de la mujer y familia en los regímenes de bienestar del sur de Europa en perspectiva comparada. Permanencia del modelo de varón sustentador. Revista Española de Investigaciones Sociológicas, 112, 131–163. DOI:

Nieuwenhuis, R. (2020). Directions of thought for single parents in the EU. Community, Work & Family, 1–8. DOI:

Nieuwenhuis, R., & Maldonado, L. C. (2018a). Single-parent families and in-work poverty. In H. Lohmann & I. Marx (Eds.), Handbook of research on in-work poverty (pp. 171–92.). Edward Elgar Publishing, DOI:

Nieuwenhuis, R., & Maldonado, L. C. (2018b). The triple bind of single-parent families: Resources, employment and policies to improve wellbeing. Policy Press. DOI:

Nygård, M., Lindberg, M., Nyqvist, F., & Härtull, C. (2019). The role of cash benefit and in-kind benefit spending for child poverty in times of austerity: An analysis of 22 European countries 2006–2015. Social Indicators Research, 146(3), 533–552. DOI:

Obiol, S. (2003). La monoparentalitat, un nou repte per a l’Estat de benestar. Revista Catalana de Sociologia, 19, 119-142.

Pérez Corral, A. L., & Moreno Mínguez, A. (2021). Estructura familiar, deterioro del mercado laboral y desigualdad en España para el período 2008-2017. Revista Internacional de Sociología, 79(2), e186. DOI:

Pilkauskas, N. V., Currie, J. M., & Garfinkel, I. (2012). The Great Recession, public transfers, and material hardship. Social Service Review, 86(3), 401–427. DOI:

Putnam, R. D. (2015). Our kids: The American Dream in crisis. Simon & Schuster.

Rees, G., Goswami, H., & Bradshaw, J. (2010). Developing an index of children’s subjective well-being in England. The Children’s Society.

Rowlingson, K., & McKay, S. (2002). Lone parent families: Gender, class and state. Prentice Hall.

Rowlingson, K., & McKay, S. (2005). Lone motherhood and socio-economic disadvantage: Insights from quantitative and qualitative evidence. The Sociological Review, 53(1), 30–49. DOI:

Shaver, S. (2018). Handbook on gender and social policy. Edward Elgar Publishing. DOI:

Sjöberg, O. (2004). The role of family policy institutions in explaining gender-role attitudes: A comparative multi-level analysis of thirteen industrialized countries. Journal of European Social Policy, 14 (2), 107-123. DOI:

Snijders, T. A. B., & Bosker, R. J. (1999). Multilevel analysis: An introduction to basic and advanced multilevel modeling. Sage Publications.

Stefánsson, K. H., Arnardóttir, L., & Karlsson, A. Ö. (2018). Children’s deprivation and economic vulnerability in Iceland 2009 and 2014. Child Indicators Research, 11(3), 783–803. DOI:

Strazdins, L., Shipley, M., Clements, M., Obrien, L. V., & Broom, D. H. (2010). Job quality and inequality: Parents’ jobs and children’s emotional and behavioural difficulties. Social Science & Medicine, 70(12), 2052–2060. DOI:

Taylor-Gooby, P. (2004). New risks and social change. In P. Taylor-Gooby (Ed.), New Risks, New Welfare (pp. 1–27). Oxford University Press. DOI:

Van De Kaa, D. J. (1987). Europe’s second demographic transition. Population Bulletin, 42(1), 1–59.

Van Lancker, W. (2012). The European world of temporary employment: Gendered and poor? European Societies, 14(1), 83–111. DOI:

Zagel, H., Hübgen, S., & Nieuwenhuis, R. (2021). Diverging trends in single-mother poverty across Germany, Sweden, and the United Kingdom: Toward a comprehensive explanatory framework. Social Force. DOI:

Zagel, H., & Van Lancker, W. (2022). Family policies’ long-term effects on poverty: a comparative analysis of single and partnered mothers. Journal of European Social Policy. DOI:

Zaidi, B., & Morgan, S. P. (2017). The Second Demographic Transition theory: A review and appraisal. Annual Review of Sociology, 43(1), 473–492. DOI:




How to Cite

Moreno Mínguez, A., & Pérez-Corral, A. L. (2022). Job insecurity and child well-being in single-parent families in Europe: A matter of family and gender policy. Journal of Family Research, 34(3), 864–891.