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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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Marriage Promotion and Low-Income Communities: An Examination of Real Needs and Real Solutions
by Avis Jones-DeWeever, Ph.D. (May 2002)

One of the most private, personal, and critical decisions one makes in life is if, when, and whom one should marry. It seems the ultimate in big government, if not social engineering, to have public policy anywhere near these critical, life-altering decisions; but this is precisely what some members of Congress and the Bush Administration have in mind, to the tune of $200-300 million per year, in the context of TANF reauthorization.

#D450, Briefing Paper, 6 pages

Life After Welfare Reform: Low-Income Single Parent Families, Pre- and Post-TANF
by Janice Peterson, Xue Song, Avis Jones-DeWeever, Ph.D. (May 2002)

This Research-in-Brief is based on selected findings from an Institute for Women’s Policy Research study, Life After Welfare Reform: The Characteristics, Work, and Well Being of Low-Income Single Parent Families, Pre- and Post-PRWORA. The findings in this study underscore the need to make improvements to the welfare system to address gender and racial inequities and focus on poverty reduction.

#D446, Research-in-Brief, 6 pages

Marriage and Poverty: An Annotated Bibliography
by Hedieh Rahmanou, Amy LeMar (April 2002)

This annotated bibliography is designed to provide researchers, policymakers, advocates, and the general public with an overview of the debate and research surrounding the promotion of marriage as a solution to reducing poverty. In addition to newspaper articles familiarizing the reader with the current debate, topics covered in this bibliography include: economic insecurity and single motherhood, child welfare and single motherhood, factors that influence marital decisions, race and family formation, the conservative and feminist perspectives, and current policy proposals.


New Welfare Proposals Would Require Mothers Receiving Assistance to Work More than the Average American Mom; Child Care Inadequate
by (April 2002)


Education and Job Training Build Strong Families
by Deanna Lyter (March 2002)

More than 11.5 million children live in poverty (US DOC 2001a) and likely will experience first-hand what research tells us – that poverty has long-lasting negative effects (McLeod and Shanahan 1996; McLoyd 1998; Reynolds and Ross 1998; Vandivere et al. 2000). Growing up in poverty, particularly if it is persistent:


Job Training and Education Fight Poverty
by M. K. Tally (March 2002)

The current federal welfare law limits the availability of education and training programs. The reauthorization of the federal Temporary Assistance to Needy Families Block Grant offers an opportunity to make job training and education a central focus of welfare. This Fact Sheet is a synthesis of the data about benefits of these programs and makes recommendations on incorporating them into the current law.

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Poverty, Welfare, and Income Security
by Barbara Gault (March 2002)

Testimony before the House Education and The Workfroce Committee Subcommittee on 21st Century Competitiveness. Focuses on the continuing implementation of the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) and the reauthorization of Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) and their importance in improving access to training for welfare recipients. Achieving the quality performance standards associated with WIA would help low-income women find and train for high quality, high demand jobs, achieve self-sufficiency, and reduce poverty.


Utilizing Workforce Investment Act Programs and TANF to Provide Education and Training Opportunities to Reduce Poverty Among Low-Income Women
by Barbara Gault, Ph.D. (March 2002)

Testimony of Barbara Gault, Director of Research, Institute for Women's Policy Research, before the House Education and Workforce Committee, Subcommittee on 21st Century Competitiveness, March 12, 2002


Working First But Working Poor: The Need for Education and Training Following Welfare Reform
by Cynthia Negrey, Stacie Golin, Sunhwa Lee, Holly Mead, Barbara Gault (March 2002)

An in-depth look at education and training- specifically for nontraditional jobs- as a solution for ending the cycle of poverty and helping women reach self-sufficiency. Based on hundreds of interviews at 29 sites in seven metropolitan areas in seven states.

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Working First But Working Poor: The Need for Education and Training Following Welfare Reform
by (March 2002)

An in-depth look at education and training- specifically for nontraditional jobs- as a solution for ending the cycle of poverty and helping women reach self-sufficiency. Based on hundreds of interviews at 29 sites in seven metropolitan areas in seven states.

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Beyond 50: A View of Economic Security in the States
by Sunhwa Lee, Ph.D., and Lois Shaw, Ph.D. (January 2002)

Report can also be accessed through the AARP website at


Feminist Perspectives on TANF Reauthorization: An Introduction to Key Issues for the Future of Welfare Reform
by Janice Peterson, Ph.D. (January 2002)

The purpose of this paper is to identify some of the key issues and goals that are emerging in TANF reauthorization discussions and to consider what a feminist agenda for TANF reauthorization might look like. The paper begins with an overview of the key elements and impacts of TANF, followed by a discussion of some critical TANF reauthorization issues and advocacy goals, and closes with some thoughts on how these issues and goals relate to feminist understandings of women's poverty and welfare reform.

#D452, Briefing Paper, 18 pages
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Why Privatizing Government Services Would Hurt Women Workers
by Annette Bernhardt and Laura Dresser (January 2002)

This report analyzes the implications of privatization for women workers, especially those employed in low-end occupations.

#B237, 28 pages

Working First But Working Poor: The Need for Education & Training Following Welfare Reform
by Cynthia Negrey, Ph.D., Stacie Golin, Ph.D., Sunhwa Lee, Ph.D., Holly Mead, Barbara Gault, Ph.D. (August 2001)

This report presents findings of an exploratory study about job training for low-income people, particularly women leaving welfare. Data are from in-depth structured interviews conducted from November 1999 to July 2000 with 67 welfare case managers, vocational counselors, job training administrators, and job training instructors in seven cities nationwide. The report also discusses results from telephone interviews conducted during the autumn of 2000 with 163 students drawn from community colleges and other job training organizations where staff participated in our study.

#D443, Executive Summary, 20 pages

Welfare Network Directory
by Bethany Snyder, April Shaw, Annisah Um'rani, Lisa Osburn (June 2001)

A tool for networking among advocates, researchers, and others concerned with welfare reform issues. Divided conveniently into an alphabetical list, a state index, and an interest index.


Today’s Women Workers: Shut Out of Yesterday’s Unemployment Insurance System
by Vicky Lovell, Ph.D., and Catherine Hill, Ph.D. (April 2001)

This Fact Sheet discusses two aspects of the UI system that prevent many women from receiving the UI benefits they have earned: (1) monetary eligibility criteria, and (2) the exclusion of part-time workers. It also reviews other barriers to UI receipt and policy changes that would extend support of this fundamental employment-based program to more working women.


Unemployment Insurance and Welfare Reform: Fair Access to Economic Supports for Low-Income Working Women
by Annisah Um'rani, Vicky Lovell (December 2000)

Discusses how unequal access to unemployment insurance (UI)specifically affects welfare recipients. Emphasizesthe vital role of UI in preventing excessive hardship among welfare recipients due to unstable jobs.


UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE AND WELFARE REFORM: Fair Access to Economic Supports for Low-Income Working Women
by Annisah Um’rani, Vicky Lovell, Ph.D. (November 2000)

#A125, Research-in-Brief, 8 pages

The Georgia Unemployment Insurance System: Overcoming Barriers For Low-Wage, Part-Time & Women Workers
by Maurice Emsellem, Esq., Vicky Lovell, Ph.D. (November 2000)

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The Outcomes of Welfare Reform for Women
by Barbara Gault, Annisah Umrani (September 2000)

An overview of research conducted shortly after the 1996 welfare refor. Highlights unique labor market and family care issues faced by women, women of color, and immigrants. Argues for greater investment in the human capital of low-income women.

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