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Single Moms' Income Drives Down Median Family Earnings

Depending on your definition of "family," things could be looking up or, well, not so up.

Based on data from the recently released Census Bureau's annual Social and Economic supplement, which spotlights changes in income, the median income for married couples with children was $81,455, an inflation-adjusted increase of 16 percent since 1990.

While that appears to be good news for the economy, it's not exactly reflective of America's changing definition of family. That is, not all U.S. families have a set of married parents at the helm.

Enter single moms.

While the median income of single moms has risen 14 percent since 1990, according to The Wall Street Journal, that percentage isn't as spectacular when you look at actual dollars earned. The median income for a family headed by a single mom in 2012 was $25,493—a far cry from the more than $81,000 married couples with kids are bringing in on average.

And as the number of families headed by single moms rise, the lower the median income becomes for all families surveyed.

That number for 2012 was just under $60,000, according to The Wall Street Journal. Adjusting for inflation, that's a mere 3 percent increase since 1990 for all families with kids under age 18.

"The stagnation in parents' incomes, in other words, is due in significant part to the changing nature of the American family," the news site explains. "Since single parents make much less than married couples, more single parents means a lower median income for all parents."

The definition of "family" continues to change in the United States, as married couples consist of less than 66 percent of all families with children, according to The Wall Street Journal—down from 80 percent in 1980. Not only that, but the number of families headed by single moms has risen more than 30 percent since 1990.

Families as a whole, however, have been hit hard by the recession. Those with two full-time earners saw income fall during the period, after seeing it rise for years. Families with only one full-time earner, such as those headed by single moms, have a smaller income and have seen smaller gains.

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