14 September 2012

Record Poverty Rates Hit Women Hardest

The most recent U.S. poverty data paints a bleak picture for women struggling to get by in the United States. A whopping 17.7 million women (14.6 percent) lived in poverty in 2011, the highest rate our nation has experienced since 1994. Men’s poverty rate, on the other hand, was 10.9 percent, a staggering contrast.

It’s no secret that the economic slump of recent years has affected both men and women. However, women have experienced a disproportionate amount of hardship. At the Ms. Foundation, we know that much of this disparity is a result of specific issues women face in their daily working lives, including the gender wage gap, the concentration of women into low-wage positions and lack of affordable child care options.

Over the last year we have focused our economic justice work on child care because we know that it’s one of the most important ways of ensuring economic security for all women.

In the past year alone, we’ve provided $565,000 in grants to 12 organizations that are creating systemic change in the informal child care sector. We’re actively supporting a three-pronged strategy to help low-income women, immigrant women and women of color achieve economic stability – supporting policies that provide quality, flexible and accessible child care; improving working conditions for care providers; and recognizing child care as an economic development strategy that supports women’s economic security.

We don’t take these new poverty figures lightly. Without significant changes to our workplaces -- changes that allow women to balance families and careers, changes that ensure adequate pay and changes that demand a better future -- too many women will remain in this state of poverty.

Photo Credit: Elizabeth Rappaport

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