Press Release

Poverty Rate Falls but Being a Woman Increases the Odds of Being Poor in America, the Wage Gap Remains Stalled, and Uninsurance Among Women Dropped by 37 Percent under the ACA

Posted on September 13, 2017

(Washington, D.C.)  Despite a slight decrease in the poverty rate last year, more than 16 million women in America lived in poverty and two-thirds of the elderly poor were women, according to new analysis released today by the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC). The wage gap stalled again. The data show that women working full-time, year round, were still paid only 80 cents for every dollar paid to their male counterparts in 2016. And for women of color, the wage gap is steeper. Uninsurance among women (ages 18-64) dropped by 37 percent between 2013 and 2016, which means that 7.2 million more women have health insurance since the Affordable Care Act was implemented in 2013.

Poverty in 2016:

  • More than 1 in 8 women 18 and older—more than 16 million—lived in poverty in 2016. This represents a 0.6 percentage point decrease from 2015.
  • About 1 in 9 men 18 and older—about 11 million—lived in poverty in 2016. This represents a 0.6 percentage point decrease from 2015.
  • The poverty rate for elderly women was 10.6 percent in 2016, a .3 percentage point increase from 2015. Women made up nearly two-thirds of the elderly poor.

“For women, the news is grim:  being a woman in America increases the odds of being poor,” said Anna Chu, Vice President for Income Security and Education at the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC). “Women are nearly 1.4 times more likely to be poor than men. More than one in twelve women is poor. Nearly two-thirds of the elderly poor are women. And nearly one in five children live in poverty—with more than half living in families headed by women. Today’s data should send an alarm signal to politicians that they must invest in child care, expand tax credits for working families, and protect social safety net programs. Millions of Americans can no longer wait.”

Wage Gap in 2016:

  • Women working full time, year round were typically paid just 80 cents for every dollar paid to their male counterparts in 2016.
  • Black women working full time, year round were typically paid just 63 cents for every dollar paid to their white, non-Hispanic male counterparts in 2016.
  • Latinas working full time, year round were typically paid just 54 cents for every dollar paid to their white, non-Hispanic male counterparts in 2016.

“Women of America, you didn’t score even a penny raise this year,” said Emily Martin, NWLC Vice President for Workplace Justice. “Instead, it’s the same old story: women are still typically paid 80 cents for every dollar a man makes. If we don’t close that gap, a woman starting her career today stands to be shortchanged hundreds of thousands of dollars over a 40-year career—and some women of color will lose more than a million dollars. That’s why the Trump Administration’s decision to block the initiative to strengthen equal pay enforcement by collecting pay data must be reversed. We literally can’t afford employers and lawmakers who sit on their hands and do nothing to close the gender wage gap.”

Health Insurance and Medicaid Coverage in 2016:

 

  • More than 92 percent of women and girls had health insurance in 2016, up 0.4 percentage points from 2015.
  • Nearly 90 percent of non-elderly adult women had health insurance in 2016, up 0.7 percentage points from 2015.
  • The uninsurance rate for non-elderly adult women has dropped by 37 percent, from 16.9 percent in 2013 to just 10.6 percent in 2016.
  • More than 17 million non-elderly adult women relied on Medicaid in 2016, up nearly 3.5 million since the Affordable Care Act was implemented in 2013.

“The statistics tell a positive story,” said Gretchen Borchelt, NWLC Vice President for Reproductive Rights and Health. “More than 89.4 million women have health insurance thanks to the Affordable Care Act. This means that an additional 7.2 million women have health insurance since the law was implemented in 2013. Women’s access to affordable health care has been an economic game changer: The birth control benefit alone has saved women more than $1 billion in just one year. We won’t ever stop fighting the Trump Administration and those in Congress who try to dismantle a law that protects women and their families.”

NWLC will continue to update its analysis here.

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For immediate release:  September 12, 2017
Contact:  Maria Patrick (mpatrick@nwlc.org)

The National Women’s Law Center is a non-profit organization that has been working since 1972 to advance and protect women’s equality and opportunity.  The Center focuses on major policy areas of importance to women and their families including economic security, education, employment and health, with special attention given to the concerns of low-income women.  For more information on the Center, visit:  www.nwlc.org.