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December 2005
Vol. 6, no. 12

Perspectives on Labour and Income

Education and income of lone parents
Diane Galarneau

  • The characteristics of lone parents changed greatly from 1981 to 2001. They were older on average, had slightly fewer children, and were much more educated.
  • These changes gave rise to a sizeable increase in employed lone mothers as well as the proportion working full time. As a consequence, their average employment income rose 35% in real terms and their low-income rate declined by 9 percentage points, to 43%.
  • These improvements did not extend to lone mothers aged 25 to 34 who had not finished high school. They saw their average earnings decline and their low-income rate rise substantially.
  • For lone fathers, the increase in educational attainment did not have the same consequences. The proportion employed or employed full time declined over the period. Their earnings also fell, particularly for the youngest and least educated.
  • Full-time work lessens the chances of being in low income. In 2000, 14% of lone mothers working full time throughout the year had a low income, compared with 62% of those with a different work pattern or not in the labour market. For lone fathers, the proportions were 7% and 38% respectively.

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Diane Galarneau is with the Micro-economic Studies and Analysis Division. She can be reached at (613) 951-4626 or

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