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Women and Poverty in 2015

nwlc_unemployment2Today, the Census Bureau released data showing that many Americans are finally starting to make real economic gains in what has been an uneven economic recovery. The overall poverty rate in 2015 fell from 1.2 percentage points to 13.5 percent and the real median wage in 2015 increased 5.2%, the fastest ever increase ever recorded by the Census Bureau. At the same time, the overall health uninsurance rate fell 1.3 percentage points from 2014 to 9.1% in 2015. This good news shows that progressive policies are making a difference in people’s lives—the Affordable Care Act helped millions of people gain insurance coverage, refundable tax credits lifted an estimated 9.2 million people out of poverty, and overall safety net programs lifted more than 42 million people out of poverty.

Although the overall news is good, women are still 35 percent more likely to be poor than men. In 2015, 13.4 percent of women were in poverty, compared to 9.9 percent of men.

Here is a quick snapshot of poverty, the wage gap, and health insurance coverage among women and their families:

Poverty among Women and Families

  • Women have a 35 percent higher chance of living in poverty than men. In 2015, nearly 17 million adult women 18 and older (13.4 percent) lived in poverty—that is more than 1 in 8 women. The poverty rate for adult men in 2015 was 9.9 percent.
  • Poverty rates were particularly high for certain women:
    • Women who head families: 36.5 percent
    • African American women: 23.1 percent
    • Hispanic women: 20.9 percent
    • Millennial women ages 18 to 24: 21.7 percent
  • The poverty rate for women 65 and older decreased from 12.1 percent in 2014 to 10.3 percent in 2015, a statistically significant drop.
  • About 1 in 5 (19.7 percent) children lived in poverty in 2015, down from 21.1 percent in 2014. More than half (56.2 percent) lived in female-headed families in 2015, unchanged from 2014.

Wage Gap

  • Women working full time, year round were paid only 80 cents for every dollar paid to their male counterparts, statistically unchanged from 2014.
  • Black women working full time, year round were typically paid only 63 cents for every dollar paid to their white, non-Hispanic male counterparts, statistically unchanged from 2014.
  • Hispanic women working full time, year round were typically paid only 54 cents for every dollar paid to their white, non-Hispanic male counterparts, statistically unchanged from 2014.

Health Insurance

  • As of 2015, nearly 92 percent of women and girls have health insurance.
  • The uninsurance rate among women 18-64 dropped by nearly one-third since the Affordable Care Act was implemented, from 16.9 percent in 2013 to 11.3 percent in 2015.
  • Adult women of all races gained health insurance in 2015, with Hispanic women seeing the greatest gains in proportion to their numbers. However, Hispanic women still have high rates of uninsurance among women ages 18-64, with 20.3 percent going without coverage, compared to 8.6 percent of white women and 13.6 percent of African American women.
  • More than 16.8 million women 18-64 relied on Medicaid in 2015, up 3.2 million since the Affordable Care Act was implemented in 2013.
  • Women continue to rely more heavily on Medicaid coverage than men. 16.8 percent of adult women ages 18 to 64 relied on Medicaid in 2015, compared to 13.5 percent of adult men.

Stay tuned to NWLC’s blog and follow @nwlc on Twitter (#talkpoverty) and Facebook to learn more about what the Census data tells us about how women and their families are faring— and to find out what you can do to help make sure next year’s data show improvements on all fronts.

It's time for change, and we must act now. Time's up.