What Women's Poverty Actually Looks Like


Earlier this month, the world celebrated International Women’s Day. It was a day to celebrate the advancement of women over the years, but also to highlight the many barriers that they still face in their efforts for equality. On this day in particular, a meme was heavily circulated that detailed some troubling statistics about women’s place in the world:

Despite all the advancements by women, could these numbers be accurate? It turns out that the numbers could not be substantiated with any real source and are part of a myth that will not go away. Despite that meme snafu, there is still an issue with women in poverty. Even with all the advancement women have made in education and labor they make less money than men and are more likely to live in poverty than men. We cannot address the issue of families and children in poverty if we do not address these inequalities for women.

A recent report prepared for the White House Council on Women and Girls highlights the progress women have made over the years. The report shows that women have caught men in college attendance and in the younger demographic outnumber men when it comes to master's degrees. The number of men and women in the workforce has nearly equalized with women’s earnings representing a growing share of family income. However, despite that in 2009 women still earned just 75% of their male counterparts.

When you combine this with the number of women who are raising families on their own you catch a glimpse of why their poverty numbers are so high. In 2011, five million more women than men lived in poverty with 34.2% of female headed households living in poverty and 16.9% in deep poverty compared to 16.5% and 6.7% for men heads of households.

In September of 2012, the Census Bureau indicated that poverty had not changed significantly between 2010 and 2011 and that is not a good when it comes to minority women. In 2010, 25% of Hispanic women lived in poverty, as did 25.6% of black women. The child poverty rate jumped to 22% with more than half living in female headed households.

The numbers show that there is an issue with women living in poverty and as a result our children. Even with women making up more of the workforce and being better educated, their lower salaries compared to their counterparts are a contributing factor to women and children living in poverty. If we are to make a difference when it comes to families living in poverty we need to start with giving women equal work for equal pay and start looking to address women and family issues as a way to combat poverty.