Data from the urban South reveal two notable consequences of single parenthood during the mid-nineteenth century. First, white children residing with single mothers left school earlier than children residing with two parents, and black children in single mother homes started school later and left school earlier. Second, white youths in single-mother homes faced an increased incidence of labor-force participation, but black youths in the same situation did not. Single parenthood imposed costs, in terms of foregone human-capital formation, on children in the mid-nineteenth century, but the consequences of single motherhood were mitigated by social norms regarding childhood education.

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