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Poverty

About Poverty

Around the world, women tend to be in poverty at greater rates than men. The United Nations reported in 1997 that 70 percent of 1.3 billion people in poverty worldwide are women, while American Community Survey data from 2013 tells us that 55.6 percent of the 45.3 million people living in poverty in the United States are women and girls. Women’s higher likelihood of living in poverty exists within every major racial and ethnic group within the U.S. Among people in poverty, 15.8 percent are young women of ages 18 to 34, compared to 11.8 percent of men in that age range. Older women are also much more likely than older men to live in poverty. IWPR has served as a resource on women’s poverty issues since its founding in 1987.

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    Latest Reports from IWPR

    Get to the Bricks: The Experiences of Black Women from New Orleans Public Housing After Hurricane Katrina
    by Jane Henrici, Ph.D., with Chandra Childers, Ph.D., and Elyse Shaw, M.A. (August 2015)

    Get to the Bricks: The Experiences of Black Women from New Orleans Public Housing After Hurricane Katrina presents the results of qualitative research conducted with 184 low-income black women who lived in public housing prior to Hurricane Katrina and the flooding of New Orleans, and who were displaced by the hurricane and the closure and demolition of their housing. This report attempts to answer a series of interconnected questions regarding the challenges that women in public housing faced when trying to evacuate, while displaced, and when trying to return or settle in new communities. The study explores the reasoning behind their choices to either return to New Orleans or remain displaced and the resources that were or were not avilable to these women as they attempted to make the best decisions for themselves and their families after such an enormous disaster. This report recommends a more holistic approach to disaster relief efforts in the United States, including coordinated services and policies that consider the needs of the most vulnerable portions of the population. The report is part of the Institute for Women’s Policy Research’s work, begun in 2005, focusing on women from different communities, backgrounds, and experiences along the U.S. Gulf Coast following the Katrina-related disasters. The research is also one of a set of investigations conducted as a part of the Social Science Research Council (SSRC) Katrina Task Force.

     

    The Status of Women in the States: 2015 (full report)
    by Institute for Women's Policy Research (May 2015)

    The Status of Women in the States: 2015 provides critical data to identify areas of progress for women in states across the nation and pinpoint where additional improvements are still needed. It presents hundreds of data points for each state across seven areas that affect women’s lives: political participation, employment and earnings, work and family, poverty and opportunity, reproductive rights, health and well-being, and violence and safety. For each of these topic areas except violence and safety, the report calculates a composite index, ranks the states from best to worst, and assigns a letter grade based on the difference between the state’s performance in that area and goals set by IWPR (e.g., no remaining wage gap or the proportional representation of women in political office). The report also tracks progress over time, covers basic demographic statistics on women, and presents additional data on a range of topics related to women’s status. In addition, it gives an overview of how women from various population groups fare, including women of color, young women, older women, immigrant women, women living with a same-sex partner, and women in labor unions. This report builds on IWPR’s long-standing work on The Status of Women in the States, a series of data analyses and reports that for nearly 20 years have provided data on women’s status nationally and for all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Status of Women in the States reports have three main goals: 1) to analyze and disseminate information about women’s progress in achieving rights and opportunities; 2) to identify and measure the remaining barriers to equality; and 3) to provide baseline measures for monitoring women’s progress. The data presented in these reports can serve as a resource for advocates, policymakers, and other stakeholders who seek to develop community investments, programs, and public policies that can lead to positive changes for women and families.

     
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    Spring 2015 Newsletter: Annual Report Edition
    by Institute for Women's Policy Research (May 2015)

    Provides a review of IWPR's activities over the year.

     

    The Status of Women in the States: 2015 — Poverty & Opportunity
    by Institute for Women's Policy Research (April 2015)

    This report is a part of the Institute for Women’s Policy Research’s series, The Status of Women in the States: 2015, which uses data from U.S. government and other sources to analyze women’s status in each state and the United States overall, to rank and grade states on a set of indicators for six topical areas, and to provide additional data on women’s social, economic, health, and political status in states across the nation. The Institute for Women’s Policy Research has published reports on the status of women in states and localities throughout the United States since 1996 covering all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The reports have been used to highlight women’s progress and the obstacles they continue to face and to encourage policy and programmatic changes that can improve women’s opportunities. Created in partnership with expert advisors, the reports have helped state and local partners educate the public on issues related to women’s well-being, inform policies and programs, make the case for establishing commissions for women, establish investment priorities, and inspire community efforts to strengthen area economies by increasing the participation of women and improving women's status.

     
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    Moynihan’s Half Century: Have We Gone to Hell in a Hand Basket?
    by Philip N. Cohen, Heidi Hartmann, Jeff Hayes and Chandra Childers (March 2015)

    In The Negro Family: The Case for National Action, published in 1965, Daniel Patrick Moynihan famously argued that the fundamental obstacle to racial equality was the instability of Black families, and especially the prevalence of single-mother families. That same year, he predicted that the spread of single-parent families would result not only in rising poverty and inequality but also in soaring rates of crime and violence. Half a century later, we report that the changes in family structure that concerned him have continued, becoming widespread among Whites as well, but that they do not explain recent trends in poverty and inequality. In fact, a number of the social ills Moynihan assumed would accompany these changes have actually decreased.

     

    Campus Child Care Declining Even As Growing Numbers of Parents Attend College
    by Barbara Gault, Lindsey Reichlin, Elizabeth Reynolds, and Meghan Froehner (November 2014)

    Affordable, reliable child care is a crucial support for the 4.8 million college students raising dependent children, but is often tough to find. High child care costs, difficulty obtaining subsidies, and scheduling challenges often create significant obstacles for student parents, and may contribute to their relatively low rates of college completion. Postsecondary systems can play an important role in promoting college success by helping student parents locate and pay for the child care they need to succeed in school

     

    Community College Students Need Fair Job Scheduling Practices
    by Lindsey Reichlin, Barbara Gault, Ph.D. (July 2014)

    Working is often critical to community college students’ ability to pursue a postsecondary education, but holding a job while in school can threaten a student’s success in college. For students to succeed at both school and work, they need jobs with predictable schedules and they need to have a say in scheduling so that work does not conflict with classes. This is especially important for students who are also parents, who must often schedule child care in addition to work and school.

     

    How Equal Pay for Working Women would Reduce Poverty and Grow the American Economy
    by Heidi Hartmann, Ph.D., Jeffrey Hayes, Ph.D., and Jennifer Clark (January 2014)

    Persistent earnings inequality for working women translates into lower pay, less family income, and more poverty in families with a working woman, which is of no small consequence to working families. About 71 percent of all mothers in the United States work for pay. Of these, about two-thirds (68 percent) are married and typically have access to men’s incomes, but married women’s earnings are nevertheless crucial to family support. One-third (32 percent) are single mothers and often the sole support of their families. And many without children, both single and married, work to support themselves and other family members. This briefing paper summarizes analyses of the 2010-2012 Current Population Survey Annual Social and Economic supplement and uses statistical controls for labor supply, human capital, and labor market characteristics to estimate: 1) how much women’s earnings and family incomes would rise with equal pay; 2) how much women and their families lose because women earn less than similarly qualified men; and 3) how much the economy as a whole suffers from inequality in pay between women and men.

     

    Defining College Affordability for Low-Income Adults
    by Barbara Gault (November 2013)

    PowerPoint presentation on "Defining College Affordability for low-income adults: Improving returns on investment for families and society" prepared for the Lumina Foundation's Authors Conference.

     

    Gender Poverty Gap Grows in Recovery: Men's Poverty Dropped Since Recession, Women's Poverty Stagnates
    by Jeffrey Hayes, Ph.D., Barbara Gault, Ph.D., and Heidi Hartmann, Ph.D. (September 2013)

    The persistent gap in male and female poverty has been growing during the economic recovery, with 16.3 percent of females, and 13.6 percent of males living in poverty in 2012. The gender poverty gap reached an historic low in 2010 just after the official end of the recession, when 16.2 percent of females, and 14.0 percent of males lived in poverty (Figure 1).

     

    Spring/Summer 2013 Newsletter-25th Anniversary Edition
    by Institute for Women's Policy Research (August 2013)

    This special 25th Anniversary edition of the newsletter presents a review of IWPR's policy research since our founding in 1987.

     

    The Importance of Social Security in the Incomes of Older Americans: Differences by Gender, Age, Race/Ethnicity, and Marital Status
    by Jocelyn Fischer and Jeff Hayes, Ph.D. (August 2013)

    Social Security is the largest source of income for most older Americans and is even more vital to particular demographic subgroups of older Americans. Analyzing the Current Population Survey Annual Social and Economic Supplement (ASEC) for calendar year 2011, this briefing paper examines the role of Social Security and other income sources in the retirement security of older Americans. It explores the unique value of Social Security to different gender, age, race/ethnic, and marital groups. It finds that significant shares of the older population rely on Social Security for the majority of their income and that Social Security lifts 14.8 million people out of poverty.

     

    Financing Child Care for College Student Success
    by Todd Boressoff (June 2013)

    This toolkit provides information about a wide range of funding sources for campus-based child care. It is intended as a resource for early care and education programs, institutions of higher learning, advocates, and policymakers. In addition to descriptions of each resource, it contains over a hundred links to websites of relevant organizations. It is designed as a guide for those seeking to provide quality child care for colleges and university students, considering how to strengthen and expand existing services, or hoping to build networks of support for students with children and other parents on campus.

    #G719, Toolkit, 44 pages
    $10.00
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    Investing in Success: How Quality Early Child Care, Education, and Workforce Training Improve the Well-Being of Girls and Women
    by Holly Firlein, Barbara Gault, Ph.D., and Bethany Nelson (May 2013)

    Recognizing that education is the gateway to opportunity, the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) has been a significant source of research on education and training, including work on early care and education, girls' experiences in the K-12 system, high quality workforce development opportunities, and postsecondary attainment. Its work has explored the importance of education for improving women's earnings, the importance of access to quality early care and education for mothers’ labor force outcomes, methods for improving job quality among early care and education providers, the role of child care in spurring and sustaining economic development, the importance of low-income women's access to postsecondary education as a poverty reduction tool, strategies for increasing the success of student parents in college through providing child care and other supports, and inceasing women's representation in higher paying, traditionally male careers such as in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) fields.

     

    The Gendered Dynamics of Income Security: How Social Science Research Can Identify Pathways Out of Poverty and Toward Economic Security
    by Courtney Kishbaugh and Jeffrey Hayes, Ph.D. (May 2013)

    The Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) addressed issues of women, poverty and income security issues from its beginnings. IWPR’s first publication on these topics, Low-Wage Jobs and Workers: Trends and Options for Change (published in 1989), finds a growing share of adults working in low-wage jobs and a growing share of families relying on low-wage work for a major share of family income. It also finds that women and people of color are far more likely to work in low-wage jobs than white males. Federal or federally-funded data sets analyzed for the study included the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP) and the Panel Study on Income Dynamics (PSID). Low-Wage Jobs and Workers, a report funded by the U.S. Department of Labor and jointly disseminated with the non-profit Women Work! (then the National Displaced Homemakers Network), became the first of many influential policy pieces centered on poverty and income security. Since then, IWPR has continued to expand its research on poverty issues, focusing primarily on the topics of Social Security and older women’s economic security, welfare reform and its impact on women and children, the impact of unemployment on low-income women and their families, and the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in the Gulf Coast region. IWPR’s work has shed light on the experiences and needs of particularly vulnerable and underserved communities, inspired national and international conversations about these issues, and informed policy change.

     
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    A Clearer View of Poverty: How the Supplemental Poverty Measure Changes Our Perceptions of Who Is Living in Poverty
    by Jocelyn Fischer and Jeff Hayes, Ph.D. (July 2012)

    In response to concerns about the adequacy of the official federal poverty measure, a new Supplemental Poverty Measure was recently developed to more accurately assess poverty. This fact sheet presents a rather different picture of poverty in the United States for the various demographic groups based on the Supplemental Poverty Measure and compares this new picture to the understanding of poverty based on the official measure, using data for the 2010 calendar year.

     
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    Single Student Parents Face Financial Difficulties, Debt, Without Adequate Aid
    by Kevin Miller, Ph. D (April 2012)

     

    Tools for Student Parent Success: Varieties of Campus Child Care
    by Todd Boressoff (March 2012)

    This toolkit is the first in a series by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR). It introduces the wide variety of child care services that exist at institutions of higher learning. Rather than an exhaustive study of campus child care programs, it is an introduction to possible options. It is for those seeking to provide quality child care at colleges or universities and for those considering how to expand or rethink existing services.

    #C393, Toolkit, 19 pages
    $10.00
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    Women and Men Living on the Edge: Economic Insecurity After the Great Recession
    by Jeffrey Hayes, Ph.D. and Heidi Hartmann, Ph.D. (September 2011)

    The IWPR/Rockefeller Survey of Economic Security, like several other recent surveys, finds that the effects of the 2007–2009 recession, known as the Great Recession, are both broad and deep. The IWPR/Rockefeller survey shows that more than one and a half years after the recession came to an official end, and the recovery supposedly began, many women and men report that they are still suffering significant hardships. They are having difficulty paying for basics like food (26 million women and 15 million men), health care (46 million women and 34 million men), rent or mortgage (32 million women and 25 million men), transportation (37 million women and 28 million men), utility bills (41 million women and 27 million men), and they have difficulty saving for the future (65 million women and 53 million men). On almost every measure of insecurity and hardship the survey reveals the Great Recession has visited more hardship on women than it has on men.

    C386, Report, 102 pages
    $15.00
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    Women, Poverty, and Economic Insecurity in Wisconsin and the Milwaukee-Waukesha-West Allis MSA
    by Claudia Williams and Ariane Hegewisch (April 2011)

    Since the beginning of the recession in 2007, with its high unemployment and rising poverty rates, more families than ever are struggling to make ends meet. This briefing paper analyzes the impact of the recession on Wisconsin's families. It finds that nearly two-thirds of all households in poverty in Wisconsin are headed by single women and, across-theboard, women are more likely than men to be poor. Families headed by single mothers and families depending on women’s wages have been the hardest hit.

    #R347, Briefing Paper, 8 pages
    $5.00
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