The first years of life are critical to children’s development and their future success.  Infants and toddlers need stable, responsive, nurturing relationships for their healthy development.  However, parents working in low-wage jobs face particular challenges as breadwinners and caregivers.  With limited incomes, parents struggle to meet their children’s basic needs: a home in a safe community, nutritious food, and books and toys to encourage their children’s learning.

Many parents strain to afford the safe and stable child care they need to be able to work—much less the high-quality child care that children need to be successful in school.  In addition, the working conditions in many low-wage jobs make parenting more difficult.  Low-wage jobs often entail unstable, unpredictable, or inflexible schedules and lack any paid sick or family leave; this can keep parents from spending time with their children on a regular basis and from being consistently available when their children need them, and can make it difficult to arrange child care.  In addition, some mothers in low-wage jobs face discrimination on the job because of their pregnancy or caregiving responsibilities.

Many mothers of very young children work in low-wage jobs—including jobs as cashiers, personal care aides, maids, and restaurant servers—and are facing precisely these challenges.  Working mothers with very young children are more likely than workers overall to be in low-wage jobs. More than half of mothers who have very young children and work in low-wage jobs are raising children on their own; half are working full time; and over one-third are poor.  They are disproportionately African-American or Hispanic.  They are also less likely to have a college education than workers overall.

Download the full issue brief.

Visit our interactive state-by-state map.

For more resources focused on women in low-wage jobs, see NWLC’s Women in Low-Wage Jobs page.

The graphic below also illustrates the prevalence of mothers of young children in the low-wage workforce.

1 in 5 Low Wage Working Mothers