Prepared for the Unexpected

By Pam Denicke
Guest blogger from eSingleParent

Education is a good investment. A study from the Economic Self-Reliance Center at Brigham Young University discovered that Utah single moms with a bachelor’s degree earn, on average, $34,000 per year compared to the $16,000 per year earned by single moms with only a high school diploma, thus more than doubling their earning potential. The study says, “It is not until a single mother has a bachelor’s degree or higher that she is likely to gain enough income to buffer her family against poverty and attain a degree of self-sufficiency.” Other research demonstrates that higher educational levels are associated with lower risk of unemployment and shorter duration of unemployment when it occurs.

A friend (who knows of my passion for higher education and of the work I do with single parents) sent me a link to an article addressing the nation’s current unemployment rate.  In the article, economist Bill Rodgers, a professor at Rutgers University, discusses our “weak recovery” and asserts that, “People who have college degrees are getting hired, but those who didn’t finish school are sitting on the sidelines. Many have given up on their search for work.” He goes on to say that those who have given up on their search are not included in the unemployment rate, which “fell slightly,” last month.

But what caught my eye is the story of the Young family who lives just outside of Salt Lake City. “Young has four children and a husband who’s on disability… Young left college early to get married and raise a family. When her husband got sick, she had to jump into the workforce… But Young says that plan didn’t work out. She searched for work for three years.” What she learned from her experience was that “employers… are looking for someone with more education – a college degree – or an associate’s degree.” Young has now decided to return to college and go to nursing school. Unfortunately, this is not an unusual story. Life has a tendency to throw us curve balls (when we least expect it) and there are no guarantees in life. No guarantee that our life partner won’t die unexpecedtely, get sick, or be injured, and subsequently, unable to work. No guarantee that we won’t experience single parenthood.

Fortunately, if we choose to pursue and complete higher education, we can have the guarantee of feeling confident about possessing a higher earning power, experiencing fewer layoffs in the workplace and shorter periods of unemployment (if laid off).  Ultimately, we can also feel confident about stepping in to the role of breadwinner when a curve ball comes our way. And that is quite a guarantee!

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