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New Census Data Shows Increase in Women’s Poverty

According to an analysis of 2009 Census data released by the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) yesterday, the poverty rate for women rose to 13.9 percent last year, the highest rate in 15 years. The data shows that over 16.4 million women were living in poverty in 2009, including nearly 7 million women in extreme poverty, which means that their incomes were below half of the federal poverty line. Poverty among men also rose from 9.6 percent in 2008 to 10.5 percent in 2009, but these rates remained substantially lower than poverty rates among women. The NWLC’s press release stated “poverty rates were substantially higher for women of color, approaching one in four among African-American women (24.6 percent compared to 23.3 percent in 2008); Hispanic women experienced a similar increase from 22.3 percent in 2008 to 23.8 percent last year.” Nearly four in ten single mothers (38.5 percent) lived in poverty in 2009, up from 37.2 percent in 2008, and more than 15.4 million children lived in poverty last year, a spike of nearly 1.4 million. In addition, the analysis revealed that the wage gap between median earnings for men and women remained unchanged. Women working full-time in 2009 were paid only 77 cents for every dollar paid to their male counterparts. “The wage gap makes it more difficult for families relying on women’s wages to achieve and maintain economic security,” said NWLC Co-President, Marcia Greenberger. “The Senate must pass the Paycheck Fairness Act in the current session to close the wage gap and secure fair pay for women.” A positive finding was that the poverty rate declined for older Americans, including women 65 and older living alone. Poverty among elderly women living alone dropped from 18.9 percent in 2008 to 17 percent in 2009. Without Social Security benefits, another 14 million older Americans would be living in poverty. “The overall picture from 2009 is grim,” said NWLC Co-President Nancy Duff Campbell, “but there’s a lot that Congress can do now to help women and their families.”

Sources:

National Women's Law Center 9/16/10