Social inequality, lone parenthood and welfare dependency in Germany

Esther Geisler, Hertie School of Governance
Michaela Kreyenfeld, Hertie School of Governance

The topic of fatherhood has amassed considerable scholarly attention in recent decades. Most research on fathers’ involvement has either focused on fathers in “intact families” or addressed the behavior and attitudes of non-residential fathers. Lone fatherhood -despite its growing significance in many countries of Europe- has not been explored much. This paper sheds new lights on the prevalence and characteristics of lone fathers in Germany. Using large scale survey data from the microcensus for the period 1996 to 2011, we describe the socio-economic correlates of lone fatherhood. In particular, we investigate the economic foundation of lone fatherhood by examining fathers’ dependence on social welfare benefits. We compare lone fathers with their female counterparts. First results confirm earlier findings that show that lone fathers are more likely than lone mothers to live with older children. They are more often highly educated than comparable women. Characteristics of lone fathers have changed over time. In particular, we observe a declining share of lone fathers being widowed in recent years. Compared to lone mothers, lone fathers are at lower risk of welfare dependency. However, some of the differences between lone mothers and fathers can be attributed to socio-economic characteristics of the two groups, in particular in respect to the number and age of children and their higher educational attainment.

Presented in Session 92: Single parenthood