The poverty rates for women remained at historically high levels in 2014, according to U.S. Census Bureau data released in September 2015. Women’s poverty rates were once again substantially above the poverty rates for men. More than one in seven women – nearly 18.4 million – and more than one in five children – more than 15.5 million – lived in poverty in 2014. More than half of all poor children lived in families headed by women.

Adult Women, 2014

  • More than one in seven women, more than 18 million, lived in poverty in 2014. About 45 percent of these women (8.2 million) lived in extreme poverty, defined as income at or below 50 percent of the federal poverty level. Nearly 1 in 15 women lived in extreme poverty in 2014.
  • The poverty rate for women (14.7 percent) was 3.8 percentage points higher than it was for men (10.9 percent). The extreme poverty rate for women (6.6 percent) was 1.7 percentage points higher than it was for men (4.9 percent).
  • Women in all racial and ethnic groups experienced higher poverty rates than white, non-Hispanic men. Poverty rates were particularly high, at about one in four, among black (25.0 percent), Native American (25.0 percent), and Hispanic (22.8 percent) women. Rates for foreign-born women (19.7 percent), Asian American women (12.2 percent), and white, nonHispanic women (10.8 percent), were also considerably higher than the rate for white, nonHispanic men (8.1 percent). Poverty rates for all groups of adult women were also higher than for their male counterparts (see summary table).
  • The poverty rate for women with disabilities (18-64) (31.9 percent) was higher than it was for women without disabilities (13.9 percent), men with disabilities (25.1 percent), and men without disabilities (10.5 percent).

What Does the Federal Poverty Rate Measure?

The official poverty rate reported by the Census Bureau measures the percentage of the U.S. population with total income below the federal poverty threshold for their family size (e.g., $24,008 in 2014 for a family of four with two children). “Income” is calculated before taxes and includes only cash income, such as:

  • Earnings
  • Pension income
  • Investment income
  • Social Security
  • Unemployment benefits
  • Child support payments

A number of other federal and state benefits that help support low-income families are not counted as income under the official poverty measure. These include:

  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits (formerly known as Food Stamps)
  • Tax benefits (e.g., Earned Income Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit)
  • Housing subsidies

Single Mothers and Children, 2014

  • More than 15.5 million children lived in poverty in 2014, more than two out of five of whom (43.8 percent) lived in extreme poverty.
  • More than one in five (21.1 percent) children were poor. Poverty rates were particularly high, at more than one in three, for black (37.1 percent) and Native American (35.3 percent) children, and more than three in ten for Hispanic (31.9 percent) and foreign-born (31.1 percent) children. The poverty rate was 14.0 percent for Asian American children and 12.3 percent for white, non-Hispanic children.
  • The poverty rate for female-headed families with children was 39.8 percent, compared to 22.0 percent for male-headed families with children, and 8.2 percent for families with children headed by a married couple.
  • Nearly half of black female-headed families with children (45.6 percent), Hispanic female-headed families with children (46.3 percent), foreign-born female-headed families with children (44.8 percent), and more than half of Native American femaleheaded families with children (56.9 percent) were poor. The poverty rate was 32.0 percent for white, non-Hispanic female-headed families with children and 28.9 percent for Asian American female-headed families with children.
  • Over half of all poor children (56.7 percent) lived in families headed by women.
  • Nearly 666,000 single women with children (14.0 percent) who worked full time, year round in 2014 lived in poverty.

Women 65 and Older, 2014

  • Among people 65 and older, more than twice as many women (over 3 million) as men (over 1.5 million) lived in poverty in 2014.
  • The poverty rate for women 65 and older was 12.1 percent, 4.7 percentage points higher than the poverty rate for men 65 and older (7.4 percent).
  • Nearly one in five (19.7 percent) women 65 and older living alone lived in poverty, compared to 12.1 percent for men 65 and older living alone.
  • Poverty rates were particularly high for black (20.9 percent), Hispanic (19.6 percent), Native American (18.6 percent), and foreign-born (18.4 percent) women 65 and older. Poverty rates were slightly lower for Asian American women 65 and older at 16.0 percent, and substantially lower for white, non-Hispanic women 65 and older at 9.9 percent. Poverty rates for all groups of women 65 and older were higher than those of their male counterparts

 

Published On: September 17, 2015Associated Issues: Connecting the IssuesData on Poverty & IncomeEconomic AgendaPoverty & Economic Security