Centre for the Analysis of Social Policy

The family work project: earning and caring in low-income households

 
 

Research Team: Professor Jane Millar and Dr. Tess Ridge

Funder: Economics and Social Research Council (rounds one and two) and Department for Work and Pensions (round three).

Policy Context

The UK government has set two policy goals directly affecting the lives of many women and children: to increase lone-parent employment to 70 per cent by 2010 and to eliminate child poverty by 2020. Government policy is based on the assumption that paid work offers the best route out of poverty, as well as more generally improving quality of life. However, although there has been much research on the barriers to employment for lone mothers, less is known about the impact of paid work on the everyday lives of lone mothers and their children, nor about the factors that help or hinder lone mothers to stay in paid work.

The Study

This is a 5 year qualitative longitudinal study exploring the lives and experiences of lone mothers and their children following a move into employment supported by tax credits after a period of time receiving out of work benefits.

Aims

The main aims of the study are:  to examine the impact of paid work - and for some job loss - on family life and living standards for lone mothers and their children over time; and to explore how lone mothers and their children negotiated the everyday challenges of sustaining low-income employment over a period of 5 years.

Sample

The sample consists of lone-mother families who had left income support between Oct 2002 and Oct 2003; had started jobs of 16 hours or more per week with tax credits; and had at least one child aged between 8 and 14. There were three rounds of interviews: 50 women and 61 children in early 2004, 44 women and 53 children in mid to late 2005, 34 women and 37 children in late 2007.

The sample thus focuses on lone mothers with school-age children and so the women tend to be older than lone mothers in general. All are women who had elected to make the move from Income Support into employment and so their approach to paid work is not necessarily the same as that of other non-employed lone mothers. Nevertheless, their experiences cast light on the range of issues facing lone mothers and their children as the mothers seek to find a place in the labour market.ning and caring in low-income households

Selected publications

Millar, J. and Ridge, T. (2013) `Lone mothers and paid work: the "`family-work project"', International Review of Sociology, Vol. 23, No. 3, 564-577

Ridge, T and Millar, J.(2011) 'Following families:Working lone-mother families and their children'. Social Policy and Administration, vol 45, no 1, 85-97.

Millar, J. (2011) 'Desperately seeking security: UK family policy, lone mothers and paid work'. Family Matters, issue 87, pp27-36

Millar, J. (2011) 'Tax credits: a close-up view'. Journal of Poverty and Social Justice, vol 19 (1), pp. 39-50.

Millar, J. and Ridge, T. (2009) 'Relationships of care: working lone mothers, their children and employment sustainability'. Journal of Social Policy vol 38, no 1, pp 103 – 121.

Ridge, T. (2009) ‘It Didn’t Always Work’: Low-Income Children’s Experiences of Changes in Mothers’ Working Patterns in the UK'. Journal of Social Policy & Society vol 8, no 4, pp 1–11.

Ridge, T.  and Millar, J. (2008) Work and well-being over time: lone mothers and their children. Department for Work and Pensions Research report 536, London: HMSO.

Millar, J. (2008) ‘Making work pay, making tax credits work: An assessment with specific reference to lone-parent employment’, International Social Security Review, vol 61, no 2, 21-38.

Millar, J. and Ridge, T. (2007) Staying in work: work and welfare for lone mothers and their children over time, Final report to ESRC (RES-000-23-1079), Centre for the Analysis of Social Policy, University of Bath.

Ridge, T. (2007) 'It’s a Family Affair: Low-Income Children’s Perspectives on Parental Work', Journal of Social Policy, vol 36, no 3, pp 399-416.

Ridge T. (2007) 'Negotiating Childhood Poverty: Children's Subjective Experiences of Life on a Low Income', in Qvortrup J., Wintersberger H., Alaanen L., Olk T. (eds) Childhood, Generational Order and the Welfare State: exploring Children's Social and Economic Welfare, University Press of Southern Denmark, pp. 161-180.

Millar J. (2006) 'Better-off in work? Work, security and welfare for lone mothers' in C. Glendinning and P. Kemp (eds) Cash and Care: Challenges in the Welfare State, Bristol: Policy Press. pp 171 – 186.

Ridge, T. (2006) 'Helping out at home: Children's contributions to sustaining work and care in lone-mother families', in C. Glendinning and P. Kemp (eds), Cash and Care: Challenges in the Welfare State, Bristol: The Policy Press, pp203-218.

Download full list of conference and seminar papers »