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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

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Unnecessary Losses: Costs to Americans in the States of the Lack of Family and Medical Leave
by (August 1989)

Despite widespread agreement that employment policies should be responsive to the needs of working families, Congress is currently engaged in debate about a national leave policy that would require minimum protections against job loss because of family and medical needs. The proposed policy would provide protections against job loss if a worker takes a short, unpaid leave for the birth or adoption of a child, the care of a seriously ill child or parent, or the worker's own illness. Although some businesses object the the cost of a national policy, the cost to workers, and to society at large, of not having such a policy is often overlooked.


Feminization of Poverty: A Second Look
by (August 1989)

From the poor widow of Biblical times to the divorced mother of today, women have always experienced a disproportionate share of poverty. But in the United States in the nineteen-sixties and seventies that share appeared to be increasing in a trend known as the 'feminization of poverty' (Pearce, 1978.) Events in the nineteen-eighties, however, raise the possibility that the feminization of poverty trend has either reversed itself, or that it has been overwhelmed: unemployment, homelessness, and poverty have increased in this decade, for men as well as women, to a degree not seen since the Depression. Popular aricles on poverty in the nineteen-eigthies focus on plant closings, displaced workers, competitiveness, budget deficits, trade imbalances... and the "New Poor." The "New Poor" are not women, or even children, but are archetypically the 47 year-old Pittsburgh steelworker, more of less permanently laid-off.

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Mothers, Children, and Low-Wage Work: The Ability to Earn a Family Wage
by Roberta Spalter-Roth, Heidi Hartmann, and Linda Andrews (August 1989)

#D403, Book Chapter, 12 pages
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The Economic Realities of Child Care
by Heidi Hartmann (April 1988)

Testimony before the Subcommittee on Human Resources, Committee on Education and Labor, U.S. House of Representatives, Washington DC, and Supplementary Statement. Suggests that public subsidies for child care and public regulation of child care providers are warranted, and that policies assisting parents in combining work with family care will ensure workers needed for economic growth. Available by mail in limited quantities. E-mail iwpr [at] iwpr [dot] org to place an order.

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Wages of Salaries of Child Care Workers: The Economic and Social Implications of Raising Child Care Worker's Salaries
by Diana Pearce (March 1988)

Testimony before the Subcommittee on Children, Drugs, and Alcoholism, Committee on Labor and Human Resources, U.S. Sebate, Washington, DC. Describes who are the child care workers, their salaries, reasons the salaries are so low, and teh effects of low salaries. Available by mail in limited quantities. E-mail iwpr [at] iwpr [dot] org to place an order.

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Costs to Women and Their Families of Childbirth and Lack of Parental Leave
by Roberta Spalter-Roth, Heidi Hartmann (October 1987)

Testimony before the Subcommittee on Children, Families, Drugs and Alcoholism, Committee on Labor and Human Resources, U.S., using figures and charts from IWPR's study Unnecessary Losses: Costs to Americans of the Lack of Family and Medical Leave.

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