New Poverty Data Out: What's the Impact on Women?

The U.S. Census Bureau released a report showing a significant decrease in U.S. economic security, tied to a rise in unemployment, between 2008 and 2009. The report highlights trends in median income, poverty and health insurance coverage during this time frame.

NPP's Income Security and Labor provide a powerful context for the report's major findings, including:

  • The U.S. poverty rate in 2009 rose to 14.3% from 13.2% in 2008. In 2009, 43.6 million Americans – or one in seven – lived in poverty, up from 39.8 million the prior year. The Bureau notes this is the third consecutive increase.

  • The number of individuals living without health insurance jumped 4.3 million to a record 50.7 million people.

In the U.S. today, the largest group of people living in poverty is women. The National Women's Law Center's report, Poverty Among Women and Families, 2000-2009: Great Recession Brings Highest Rate in 15 Years, analyzes the impact of the economic crisis and rise in unemployment on women.

Here are a few of the report's major findings:

Women v. men: By 2009, there were 16.41 million adult women living in poverty and 11.7 million adult men living in poverty.

Record poverty rates: The poverty rate among adult women reached 13.9% in 2009, increasing from 13% in 2008. This is the highest rate in 15 years and the .9% jump from 2008 to 2009 is the biggest increase in a single-year since 1980.

High unemployment since 2007: Unemployment among women who head families has increased to nearly twice the pre-recession rate – 6.9% in December 2007 to 13.4% in July 2010.

Married couples: In 2008, 1.4 million married couples with children relied solely on the women's earnings. In 2009, this number increased by 36.6% to reach 1.9 million, making one-third of working mothers the sole wage-earner in the family.

Single mothers: In 2009, 12.5% of single women with children who worked full time, year-round lived in poverty.

Female v. male-headed families: In 2009, poverty rates among families with children headed by females rather than by males were much higher – 38.5% compared to 23.7%. When broken down by ethnicity, female-headed families with children reached even higher poverty rates of (44.2% for Blacks, 46% for Hispanics and 44.4% for Native Americans).

Children and poverty: In 2009, 20.7% of children – or 15.45 million – lived in poverty. Over 50% of those children lived in female-headed families.

Women 65 and older: Women 65 and older were the only subgroup to experience a decline in poverty from 2008 to 2009. Despite the decrease, in 2009, 2.3 million women 65 and older (or 10.7%) lived in poverty as compared to 1.1 million men 65 and older (or 6.6%).

Wage gap: In 2009, women who worked full-time, year-round made 77 cents to every dollar made by men also working full-time, year round. Although both male and female median annual earnings increased from 2008 to 2009, a female worker earned $10,849 less than a male counterpart in 2009 – a $267 bigger gap in income than in 2008.