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2011 State Poverty Data Underscore the Need to Protect Programs for Low-Income Women

Insecure and Unequal: Poverty and Income Among Women and Families, 2000-2011New data from the Census was just released, and NWLC’s calculations show that many women and their families around the country are still struggling in the wake of the great recession. Though poverty stabilized between 2010 and 2011, protecting low income programs remains absolutely critical for women.

In 2011, more than one in five women was poor in Mississippi (22.3 percent) and Louisiana (20.6 percent). Only one state, New Hampshire, had a poverty rate of less than ten percent for women, at 8.9 percent. In the other 47 states and the District of Columbia, between 10 and 20 percent of women lived below the poverty line.

In 2011, more than half of female-headed families with children were poor in Kentucky (51.3 percent), Louisiana (50.3 percent), Mississippi (51.8 percent), and West Virginia (51.6 percent). In eight more states (AL, AR, ID, MI, NM, OH, SC, and TN), their poverty rates were 45 percent and above.

What about women of color? In eleven states, about a third or more of black women were poor (IA, IN, LA, ME, MI, MN, MS, SD, WI, WV, and, VT). Roughly a third of Hispanic women were poor in six states (IN, MS, NC, PA, RI, TN).

Yet again, these numbers underscore the importance of federal and state programs for low-income people. We’ve talked about this before, but with poverty rates at record highs, programs like Social Security, Medicare, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly food stamps), and the Earned Income Tax Credit, among others, are essential for keeping millions of women and families above the poverty line. We know that women disproportionately rely on these programs, making the message from the state poverty data clear: Programs for low-income families and individuals must be protected. We sincerely hope Congress is taking note.