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About Poverty

Around the world, women tend to be in poverty at greater rates than men. The United Nations reported in 1997 that 70 percent of 1.3 billion people in poverty worldwide are women, while American Community Survey data from 2009 tells us that 55.2 percent of the 42.9 million people living in poverty in the United States are women and girls. Women’s higher likelihood of living in poverty exists within every major racial and ethnic group within the U.S. Among people in poverty, 16.7 percent are younger women ages 18 to 34, compared to 12.3 percent men in that age range.Older women are also much more likely than older men to live in poverty.IWPR has served as a resource on women’s poverty issues since its founding in 1987.


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    Latest Reports from IWPR

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    Working First But Working Poor: The Need for Education and Training Following Welfare Reform
    by (March 2002)

    An in-depth look at education and training- specifically for nontraditional jobs- as a solution for ending the cycle of poverty and helping women reach self-sufficiency. Based on hundreds of interviews at 29 sites in seven metropolitan areas in seven states.

    Preview not available

    Beyond 50: A View of Economic Security in the States
    by Sunhwa Lee, Ph.D., and Lois Shaw, Ph.D. (January 2002)

    Report can also be accessed through the AARP website at


    Feminist Perspectives on TANF Reauthorization: An Introduction to Key Issues for the Future of Welfare Reform
    by Janice Peterson, Ph.D. (January 2002)

    The purpose of this paper is to identify some of the key issues and goals that are emerging in TANF reauthorization discussions and to consider what a feminist agenda for TANF reauthorization might look like. The paper begins with an overview of the key elements and impacts of TANF, followed by a discussion of some critical TANF reauthorization issues and advocacy goals, and closes with some thoughts on how these issues and goals relate to feminist understandings of women's poverty and welfare reform.

    #D452, Briefing Paper, 18 pages
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    Why Privatizing Government Services Would Hurt Women Workers
    by Annette Bernhardt and Laura Dresser (January 2002)

    This report analyzes the implications of privatization for women workers, especially those employed in low-end occupations.

    #B237, 28 pages

    Working First But Working Poor: The Need for Education & Training Following Welfare Reform
    by Cynthia Negrey, Ph.D., Stacie Golin, Ph.D., Sunhwa Lee, Ph.D., Holly Mead, Barbara Gault, Ph.D. (August 2001)

    This report presents findings of an exploratory study about job training for low-income people, particularly women leaving welfare. Data are from in-depth structured interviews conducted from November 1999 to July 2000 with 67 welfare case managers, vocational counselors, job training administrators, and job training instructors in seven cities nationwide. The report also discusses results from telephone interviews conducted during the autumn of 2000 with 163 students drawn from community colleges and other job training organizations where staff participated in our study.

    #D443, Executive Summary, 20 pages

    Welfare Network Directory
    by Bethany Snyder, April Shaw, Annisah Um'rani, Lisa Osburn (June 2001)

    A tool for networking among advocates, researchers, and others concerned with welfare reform issues. Divided conveniently into an alphabetical list, a state index, and an interest index.


    Today’s Women Workers: Shut Out of Yesterday’s Unemployment Insurance System
    by Vicky Lovell, Ph.D., and Catherine Hill, Ph.D. (April 2001)

    This Fact Sheet discusses two aspects of the UI system that prevent many women from receiving the UI benefits they have earned: (1) monetary eligibility criteria, and (2) the exclusion of part-time workers. It also reviews other barriers to UI receipt and policy changes that would extend support of this fundamental employment-based program to more working women.


    UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE AND WELFARE REFORM: Fair Access to Economic Supports for Low-Income Working Women
    by Annisah Um’rani, Vicky Lovell, Ph.D. (November 2000)

    #A125, Research-in-Brief, 8 pages

    The Georgia Unemployment Insurance System: Overcoming Barriers For Low-Wage, Part-Time & Women Workers
    by Maurice Emsellem, Esq., Vicky Lovell, Ph.D. (November 2000)

    Preview not available

    The Outcomes of Welfare Reform for Women
    by Barbara Gault, Annisah Umrani (September 2000)

    An overview of research conducted shortly after the 1996 welfare refor. Highlights unique labor market and family care issues faced by women, women of color, and immigrants. Argues for greater investment in the human capital of low-income women.


    Unemployment Insurance Reform for the New Workforce
    by Annisah Um’rani, Vicky Lovell, Ph.D. (March 2000)

    Proceedings of the Strategy Forum for Improving Unemployment Insurance Policies to Benefit Women, Low-Wage and Contingent Workers, sponsored by IWPR and the National Employment Law Project.

    Preview not available

    Our Common Ground: Prominent Women Talk About Work and Family
    by Diana Zuckerman (March 1999)

    Tells the story of 11 prominent women, including Linda Chaves-Thompson, AFL-CIO; Judy Woodruff, CNN; Susan Molinari, former Congresswoman; and Carole SImpson, ABC News, as they struggled to combine work and family. They faced a broad range of challenges, including gender- and race-based discrimination in employment and the difficulty of providing care to family members with special needs. Available by mail in limited quantities. E-mail iwpr [at] iwpr [dot] org to place an order.


    How Much Can Child Support Provide? Welfare, Family Income, and Child Support
    by Kristine Witkowski and Hsaio-Ye Yi (March 1999)

    When signing the most current welfare legislation, the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (PRWORA). President Clinton Stated that "If every parent paid the child support that he or she owes legally today, we could move 800,000 women and children off welfare immediately" (quoted in Children Today, 1997). Although many share the President's expectations that greater child support enforcement and collections would help to meet the financial needs of children on welfare, it is uncertain whether the collection of such support is likely or if this support will be enough to help these children move out of poverty.

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    Welfare Reform Research: A Resource Guide for Researchers and Advocates
    by Barbara Gault (June 1998)

    Includes a set of tools for researchers investigating how women and their families are affected by welfare reform policies, and for advocates who want to use research to improve policies affecting low-income women. Available by mail in limited quantities. E-mail iwpr [at] iwpr [dot] org to place an order.

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    Prospects for Low-Income Mothers' Economic Survival Under Welfare Reform
    by Barbara Gault, Heidi Hartmann, Hsiao-ye Yi (June 1998)

    Discusses the implications of data on the income and employent patterns of welfare recipients. Findings are taht high school education and job training are important predictors of escaping poverty, and taht childcare expenses account for a third of working welfare recipients' income. Concludes that states must address childcare and job-training needs for welfare recipients to successfully enter the labor market. Available by mail in limited quantities. E-mail iwpr [at] iwpr [dot] org to place an order.

    Preview not available

    Single Mothers, Jobs, and Welfare: What the Data Tells Us
    by Megan DeBell, Hsaio-Ye Yi, and Heidi Hartmann (December 1997)

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    Single-Parent Families: Economic Survival and Welfare Reform
    by Natalie Lacireno-Paquet, Shannon Garrett, and Jackie Chu (July 1997)

    Can single parents on welfare find and keep jobs that enable them to support themselves and their families? Or will they need other sources of income in order to live above the poverty line? The IWPR research described here suggests that many single parents who have received welfare or other government assistance will be unable to earn enough to escape poverty unless they have other sources of income. Studying all families below 200 percent of the poverty level, IWPR researchers compared single-parent families (both those headed by mothers and those headed by fathers) with two-parent families to identify differences in their earnings, use of public benefits, and availability of other income sources.


    IWPR Welfare Reform Network News
    by (April 1997)

    With the states facing a July 1, 1997, deadline to submit their welfare plans to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, many state officials are considering how they will meet the challenges of moving large numbers of welfare recipients into the work force. This newsletter describes one central component of state efforts to move welfare recipients into the workforce: workfare. Workfare is one of several policy issues relation to the low-wage labor market and job creation/ availability issues under the new welfare law. In this newsletter, we describe some features of workfare programs and present research findings that suggest some implications workfare may have for the low-wage labor market and the well-being of welfare recipients.

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    Child Rearing and Employment Turnover: Child Care Availability Increases Mother's Job Stability
    by (March 1997)

    Summarizes reserach by sociologists Sandra Hofferth and Nancy Collins showing that the availability of convenient, affordable, center-based child care significantly increases mother's tenure on the job. Available by mail in limited quantities. E-mail iwpr [at] iwpr [dot] org to place an order.

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    What the United States Can Learn From France: A Summary of an Important New Book on Child Poverty
    by Barbara Bergmann, Jodi Burns, Jill Braunstein (March 1997)

    This Research-In-Brief summarizes an important new book by Barbara R. Bergmann, professor of economics at American University and an affiliated member of the IWPR Information Network. Published by the Russell Sage Foundation in 1996, "Saving Our Children From Poverty: What the United States Can Learn From France" draws important lessons for the United States from the French experience with policies that aid families with children. This Research-in-Brief is part of a new series that highlights the work of researchers affiliated with IWPR on topics of importance to women.

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