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PolitiFact: Huckabee exaggerates the plight of single moms

The statement

Says it's a "statistical reality that most single moms are very poor, under-educated, can't get a job, and if it weren't for government assistance, their kids would be starving to death."

Mike Huckabee, possible 2012 Republican presidential contender, in a post on his PAC's website

The ruling

The best statistics we found to analyze this issue come from a Census Bureau data set called "America's Families and Living Arrangements: 2010." We'll take Huckabee's claims one by one.

"Most single moms are very poor." Looked at by household, about 40 percent of single-mother households are officially below the poverty level. Also, children in single-mother households are more than twice as likely as those in dual-parent households to be part of families that earn less than twice the poverty level. There is no accepted definition of "very poor," and even being at twice the poverty level would be considered poor by many experts. So Huckabee has a point with this statistic.

Most single moms are "under-educated." It's true that children with single moms are more than twice as likely as those of dual-parent households to be the child of a high-school dropout. On the other hand, a full 81 percent of children of single moms have a mom who graduated from high school. That's lower than the 92 percent rate for dual-parent households, but it still seems a stretch to say that "most" single moms are "under-educated."

Most single moms "can't get a job." According to calculations by Gary Burtless, an economist with the centrist-to-liberal Brookings Institution, data show that single moms are actually likelier to work than married moms. In 2009, about 66 percent of single moms worked, with an unemployment rate of 13.6 percent. On this statistic, Huckabee is way off base.

"If it weren't for government assistance, their kids would be starving to death." Among children with single mothers, 41 percent get food stamps — a minority of single-mother households.

So where does this leave us? There's a pretty strong case that Huckabee is right about poverty in single-mother households. But his claims about educational attainment and government assistance are exaggerated, and the majority of kids living with single moms have food on the table without public assistance. And one claim is flat-out wrong — that single moms aren't able to get jobs. On balance, we rate Huckabee's statement Barely True.

This ruling has been edited for print. For more rulings, go to PolitiFact.com.

PolitiFact: Huckabee exaggerates the plight of single moms 03/10/11 [Last modified: Thursday, March 10, 2011 9:02pm]
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