In the United States, more women than men live in poverty.
According to U. Census Bureau data, of the The following facts present a snapshot of women in poverty, explain why women experience higher rates of poverty, and explore the policy solutions that can best ensure lasting economic security for women and their families. The poverty estimates included in this fact sheet are based on the federal poverty line, or the minimum annual income for individuals and families determined by the U.
While the federal poverty line is an important measure of economic insecurity and is widely used to determine eligibility for many public assistance programs, it is narrow and outdated.
Women experience higher rates of poverty than men. In Women of nearly all races and ethnicities face higher rates of poverty than their male counterparts.
About 1 in 4 AIAN women live in poverty—the highest rate of poverty among women or men of any racial or ethnic group. Black women, Latinas, and AIAN women are also disproportionately represented among women living in poverty. Similarly, Black women represent Unmarried mothers have higher rates of poverty than married women, with or without children, and unmarried women without children.
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Poverty rates for women and men are nearly even throughout childhood, but the gap widens ificantly for women ages 18 to 44—during prime childbearing years—and again for women age 75 and older. While the gap in poverty rates between women and men narrows after age 34, it never closes throughout their adult life, and it actually widens again in old age: Women with disabilities are more likely to live in poverty than both men with disabilities and individuals without disabilities.
LGBTQ women experience higher rates of poverty than cisgender straight women and men due to the intersections of discrimination based on gender, sexual orientation, and gender identity or expression. The effects of sexism and racism on institutional structures and across society limit the employment opportunities available to women, availability of caregiving supports, access to public social assistance programs, and more, leading to higher rates of poverty among women, particularly women of color, compared with men.
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Some of the interrelated causes include the following factors. On average, women earn less than men—and the wage gaps are wider for most women of color. Based on U. Asian women overall earn about 90 cents, however women belonging to certain Asian subgroups experience much larger wage gaps. This represents a ificant factor contributing to the gender disparity in poverty rates among women and men age 75 and older.
The gender wage gap is driven by a host of factors, including, but not limited to, differences in jobs or industries worked, hours worked, and years of experience—although differences in occupation or education level do not explain away the gap. Women are less likely to have the savings and wealth necessary to weather financial shocks and provide for themselves and their families throughout their lifetimes. The gender wealth gap is informed by numerous factors, including the fact that women earn less than men; are more likely to be denied mortgages and to be overcharged for them; are particularly vulnerable to predatory lending; hold more debt; and face other obstacles that undermine their ability to build wealth and savings.
Essential to note is that the wealth gap is ificantly larger for women of color, who face both a wage gap and a wealth gap informed by both gender and racial discrimination.
These factors cause women, especially women of color, to be segregated into low-wage jobs and make low wages a defining feature of women-dominated jobs. The United States lacks supportive work-family policies such as adequate funding for child care, a national paid family and medical leave program, and an earned paid sick leave law, which would help women manage work and caregiving responsibilities.
Reliable child care, which enables parents to participate in the labor force, is often unaffordable and hard to find, which can contribute to lower employment among mothers compared with fathers. Disability is both a cause and consequence of poverty.
Essential public social assistance programs deed to alleviate financial hardship do not provide sufficient support and are not as widely accessible as needed. Some of the most essential programs in need of enhancement include:.
These include:. To lift women out of poverty, policy solutions must address the myriad ways that structural and societal sexism and racism uniquely burden women, depress their wages, and limit their opportunities. This includes improving vital public assistance programs, addressing workplace disparities, ensuring work-family benefits, and expanding access to lifesaving supports.
These robust solutions must prioritize the needs of women of color, who are at heightened risk of poverty due to the combined effects of gender and racial discrimination.
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Poverty among women is not inevitable, and only intentional efforts to expand opportunities and supports for all women will ensure lasting economic security for women and their families. Special thanks to Justin Schweitzer for his thorough fact check and invaluable edits and suggestions.
These years were corrected to For consistent comparison, data from other sources were updated to reflect data, when available. Download the PDF here. The federal poverty line: An imperfect measurement of poverty The poverty estimates included in this fact sheet are based on the federal poverty line, or the minimum annual income for individuals and families determined by the U.