Social Exclusion and Health Outcomes of Single-Mother Households in Japan

Thursday, July 17, 2014: 9:30 AM
Room: Booth 53
Oral Presentation
Akiko OISHI , Faculty of Law and Economics, Chiba University, Chiba, Japan
Single-mothers and their children are one of the most economically-disadvantaged groups of people in industrialized countries. Japan stands out from other OECD countries with regard to its high incidence of poverty and the high employment rate of single-mother households. Previous studies in the Western countries have shown significant differences in physical and mental health between single-mothers and their married counterparts. They also have found that children of single-mother households are more likely to have health and behavioral problems. However, it is still unclear to what extent these differences are attributable to low-income or lack of social support. Employing a unique panel survey on women with children, this study investigates how poverty and lack of social capital affect health outcomes of mothers and children in single-mother households in Japan.

              Major contributions of this study are as follows. First, it employs multiple measures of poverty. In particular, it uses not only the poverty line but also the Minimum Cost of Living calculated by the Public Assistance system to define the poor. Second, subjective as well as objective measures of health outcomes are used. Third, the effect of past experiences that may affect health (such as childhood abuse and family dissolution in childhood) is examined to control for unobserved heterogeneity.

              Tentative results confirm significant health inequality between single-mothers and their married counterparts. Although poverty has significant and negative effect on health of married mothers, it has no significant effect on health among single-mothers. In addition, even after controlling for age and other socio-economic factors, mental health of single-mothers significantly deteriorates as their children grow-up.