The Institute for Women’s Policy Research’s (IWPR) briefing paper, Investing in Single Mothers’ Higher Education: National and State Estimates of the Costs and Benefits of Single Mothers’ Educational Attainment to Individuals, Families, and Society, features findings from a study to quantify the individual and societal costs and benefits of single mothers’ attainment of college degrees (see Reichlin Cruse et al. 2019). This work builds off of previous IWPR research on investments in single mothers’ education (see Gault, Milli, and Reichlin Cruse 2018), adapting it to an analysis at the state level.[1]

In addition to the state-level focus, IWPR’s 2019 briefing paper improves upon the previous report in several key ways: it estimates the impact of college education on lifetime public assistance receipt among single mothers (the previous report estimated the effect over a four-year period); it includes a new analysis of the impact of some college credit on outcomes among single mothers, even though they did not obtain a degree; and with the addition of the some college analysis, we are now able to estimate the full return on investment in support services for single mother students. These improvements, along with the remainder of the analysis, are discussed in greater detail in the sections below.

IWPR drew on existing literature and new calculations utilizing an array of data sources for its study. These sources include the 2015-2017 American Community Survey (ACS; Ruggles et al. 2019), the 2014-2018 Current Population Survey (CPS; Flood et al. 2018), the 2015-2016 National Postsecondary Student Aid Survey (NPSAS; U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics 2018), the 2003-2009 Beginning Postsecondary Student Survey (BPS; U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics 2011), the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) 2015 fall enrollment component (U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics 2017), and other federal data sources.

[1] Fact sheets for each state can be found on IWPR’s website: