Originally created 05/22/01

Single-mom homes rise in census



In Georgia, one in every four family households is a single-mother household.

In South Carolina, single-mother homes are even more common, representing one in every 3.78 families.

Although they remain in the minority of U.S. family households, census figures show that single-mother homes and unmarried partner homes are on the rise nationwide, statewide and locally.

Camille Hester says she isn't surprised to learn that single motherhood is becoming more common. She would be surprised if it weren't, but that doesn't make it any easier, she said.

Deciding to raise her six-year-old daughter alone is not a decision the 26-year-old mother regrets, she says, but it's not something she recommends either.

"I knew as soon as I found out I was pregnant that I would keep her no matter what it would take," Ms. Hester said, relaxing Monday afternoon at an apartment complex pool while her daughter Madison played in the water. "But it is hard, and you realize how little time there is."

Ms. Hester is one of nearly 9,500 single mothers living in Richmond County, a number that has increased 7 percent since 1990.

Augusta's increase in single mothers is not unique.

The number of single-mother homes in Georgia and South Carolina increased 36 percent between 1990 and 2000, while the number of homes with children increased by only 23 percent in Georgia and by 11 percent in South Carolina.

Columbia County represents the smallest percentage of single-mother households in the Augusta area. Of the 13,823 homes with children younger than 18, 15.2 percent are single-mother homes.

Still, the number of single-mother homes in Columbia County has risen 66 percent during the past decade, from 1,267 to 2,105.

Kim Mock, the owner of Say Cheese scrapbook store in Martinez, is among Columbia County's single-mother population. Ms. Mock and her five-year-old son, Keller, have been on their own since he was 15 months old, she said.

She says that even though there are more and more mothers in her situation, the support services aren't growing. She said she could think of only a couple programs geared toward single moms, including one for a free oil change she got from her church, Warren Baptist.

"That was good because car things are really hard," Ms. Mock said.

Burke County has the largest percentage of single-mother homes in the area. Of the more than 3,000 homes with children younger than 18 in the county, 37.5 percent are single-mother homes. Single-mother homes there grew at a rate of about 16 percent between 1990 and 2000, census data show.

In Aiken County, the percentage of single-mother households rose by less than 1 percent from 24.32 to 24.88 percent during the past decade, compared with the statewide average, which experienced a 5 percent increase in those homes during the same period.

Throughout the nation and in the Augusta area, the number of households with unmarried partners living together has increased dramatically during the past decade. Richmond, Columbia, Burke and Edgefield counties mirrored statewide trends that showed the number of unmarried couples living together more than doubling during the past decade.

"For a lot of people, it's a weigh station to marriage, particularly for those that have been married once," said Thomas Coleman, the executive director for the American Association for Single People, based in Glendale, Calif.

The growing number of less traditional households can be attributed in part to rising divorce rates, a tendency to marry later in life and an increase in the number of long-term gay relationships, he said.

Staff Writers Ashlee Griggs, Valerie Rowell and Teresa Wood contributed to this story.

Reach Heidi Coryell at (706) 823-3215.