Publication Date



Upjohn Institute working paper ; 16-255




Policy changes in the United States in the 1990s resulted in sizable increases in employment rates of single mothers. We show that this increase led to a large and abrupt increase in work experience for single mothers with young children. We then examine the economic return to this increase in experience for affected single mothers. Despite the increases in experience, single mothers’ real wages and employment have remained relatively unchanged. The empirical analysis suggests that an additional year of experience increases single mothers’ wage rates by less than 2 percent, a percentage lower than previous estimates in the literature.

Issue Date

April 2016

Subject Areas

LABOR MARKET ISSUES; Wages, health insurance and other benefits; Work and family balance; UNEMPLOYMENT, DISABILITY, and INCOME SUPPORT PROGRAMS; Poverty and income support; Low wage labor markets


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Looney, Adam and Day Manoli. 2016. "Are There Returns to Experience at Low-Skill Jobs? Evidence from Single Mothers in the United States over the 1990s." Upjohn Institute Working Paper 16-255. Kalamazoo, MI: W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research.