Diminishing Returns: Lone Mothers’ Work Incentives and Incomes under the Coalition

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Lone mothers in the UK are a key target group of tax-benefit measures designed to ‘make work pay’. This article assesses how the Conservative–Liberal Democrat Coalition's ‘make work pay’ agenda since 2010 has potentially affected single mothers. It calculates two lone mothers’ incomes and incentives for a range of working hours and wage rates under the Coalition and previous New Labour government. While the Coalition's measures substantially improve the lone mothers’ incentives to work in mini-jobs of fewer than sixteen hours, their incentives to work longer are still weak, if not weaker than under Labour. Furthermore, the financial returns to progressing in work begin to diminish once hours exceed just six at average wage and nine at minimum wage. While tougher conditionality may still push many lone parents to work longer, weak labour demand and reduced employment supports could undermine their abilities to meet increased work expectations.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)569-591
JournalSocial Policy and Society
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 25 Jun 2015


  • make work pay
  • universal credit
  • mini-jobs
  • New labour
  • UK

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Gender Studies


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