The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic precipitated devastating losses in employment and earnings; in the economic recovery since those initial losses, pandemic relief programs prevented millions from falling into poverty. The American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), passed in March 2021 in response to the pandemic, provided additional resources to individuals and families in the forms of stimulus checks, emergency rental assistance, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) increases, and expansions in unemployment insurance, the Earned Income Tax Credit, and the Child Tax Credit, among other policies. Families with children have largely benefited from these additional support systems, with child poverty rates dropping to a record low in 2021.

Nevertheless, women and especially women of color still faced disproportionate poverty and hardship. In 2021, over one in nine women—or nearly 15.3 million—lived in poverty. Poverty rates using the official poverty measure (OPM) were much higher for disabled women, Black, Latinx, and Native women, those born outside of the United States, and families with children headed by a single woman. Unlike people ages 18–64 and children, women ages 65 and older experienced deepened poverty in 2021.