Skip to contentNational Women's Law Center

Being a Woman Means You’re More Likely to Be Poor – and 3 Other Things You Should Know about Women and Poverty

More than 1 in 7 women live in poverty.

The Census Bureau just released new data on poverty in the U.S. in 2012. We’re continuing to crunch the numbers (we’ll have other blog posts and analyses), but here’s a first look at the numbers for women and families:

  • More than one in seven women, nearly 17.8 million, lived in poverty. The poverty rate among women was 14.5 percent in 2012, statistically unchanged from 2011, and the highest rate in two decades. 
  • The poverty rate for men in 2012, 11.0 percent, was lower than for women, and also was statistically unchanged from 2011. Although men’s poverty rate in 2012 was higher than in 2007, before the start of the recession, it was lower than women’s poverty rate in 2007—and lower than women’s record-low poverty rate (11.5 percent in 2000).
  • Poverty rates were particularly high for women who head families (40.9 percent), black women (25.1 percent), Hispanic women (24.8 percent), and women 65 and older living alone (18.9 percent).
  • More than one in five children, 21.8 percent, lived in poverty. More than half (56.1 percent) of poor children lived in female-headed families.

These statistics represent real people who can’t afford food for their families and struggle every day to keep their heads above water. Programs like SNAP (formerly Food Stamps), Social Security, the Earned Income Tax Credit, and unemployment insurance make a difference—but despite widespread hardship and a recovery that is providing mostly low-wage jobs for women, some lawmakers are proposing savage cuts to programs that help families meet basic needs, like SNAP, and demanding another round of sequestration cuts to programs that give poor children a chance to get ahead, like Head Start. Yet some of these same lawmakers insist that the very wealthy and big corporations should not pay a penny more in taxes, even though the richest one percent is doing better than ever. It’s unfair, it’s untenable, and it’s un-American.

Be sure to keep an eye on our Facebook page during the next week for even more on this topic.