WASHINGTON — It’s not just an American phenomenon: Across the globe, single-parent homes are on the rise.
The number of one-parent families increased from England to Australia during the 1990s, mirroring demographic shifts reported in the U.S. census.
And just as was the case in America, those shifts are raising questions about how much help government should provide single-parent families, which often are less well-off financially than families headed by a married couple.
Should single parents get tax breaks to help pay for child care? Should employers be monitored to make sure flexible work hours are offered?
Annie Oliver, a 32-year-old single mother from Bristol, England, thinks so.
"You wouldn’t believe how becoming a single parent suddenly made me a second-class citizen," said Oliver, who struggles to keep a full-time job and care for her disabled son.
British policymakers, she says, are doing little to help, despite statistics that show the number of single-parent homes in Great Britain increasing during the past decade.
Around the world, most children younger than 18 still are raised in homes headed by married parents. In the United States, the 2000 census showed that 24.8 million, or nearly 24 percent of the nation’s 105.5 million households, were the traditional "Ozzie and Harriet" home with married parents and children.
By comparison, 9.8 million households, or 9 percent of all U.S. households, were headed by a man or woman raising a child alone or without a spouse living at home.
In the 1990 census, 26 percent of homes were headed by a married mother and father, and 8 percent by a single parent.
Similar increases in single-parent homes occurred in other countries, though data from those countries are not directly comparable to U.S. census figures because of differences in methodology.
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