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Poverty

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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    Welfare is Not for Women: Toward a Model of Advocacy to Meet the Needs of Women in Poverty
    by (January 1997)

    The other America described two decades ago by Michael Harrington is a changing neighborhood: men are moving out, while women, many with children, are moving in. As a result, the War on Poverty that grew out of the concern aroused by Harrington and others was built on images and assumptions about the poor that have become increasingly invalid. The fundamental thesis of the paper is that the trend towards the "feminization of poverty" has profoundly altered the needs, legal and otherwise of today's poor, as well as the nature of advocacy required to meet those needs.

     

    IWPR Welfare Reform Network News
    by (December 1996)

    In the summer of 1995, it was unclear what the final form of the welfare bill would be, and IWPR had heard a great deal of uncertainty from researchers and advocates in the field about the potential effects of welfare reform on poor families. The passage of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) on August 22, 1996 has created new uncertainties about what the states and recipients can and will do under block grants, such as: the ability of the low wage labor market to absorb former recipients of Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC), the impact on groups which are no longer eligible for benefits under TANF, the ability of serivce providers to meet the increasing needs of poor families, the link between welfare recipiency and domestic violence and homelessness, and the role of advocacy groups in the policy debate as the structure of welfare continues to change. Many have voiced their concern over how these changes are going to be evaluated.

     
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    Child Care Usage Among Low-Income and AFDC Families
    by Heidi Hartmann, Roberta Spalter-Roth, Hsiao-Ye Yi, and Lois Shaw (October 1996)

     
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    Using Temporary Disability Insurance to Provide Paid Family Leave: A Comparison with the Family and Medical Leave Act
    by IWPR (April 1996)

    Presents IWPR estimates of the cost of using Temporary Disability Insurance (TDI) to provide paid family leave in ten states. Argues the cost would be lower than Unemployment Insurance ad TDI would cover more workesr than FMLA does.

     
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    Food Stamps and AFDC: A Double Life-Line for Low-income Working Single Mothers
    by Roberta Spalter-Roth, Ph.D. and Enrique Soto (April 1996)

    This report investigates the current relationship between participation in the AFDC program and enrollment in the Food Stamp Program. It finds that eligible working single mothers who combine or cycle between paid employment and receipt of AFDC are significantly more likely to obtain food stamps if they are also receiving AFDC.

     
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    Are Mommies Dropping Out of the Labor Force? No!
    by Janice Hamilton Outzz (March 1996)

    Despite a spate of recent news articles reporting a slow down and even reversal of the long-term growth in women's labor force participation-- articles that assume the reversal is led by mothers anxious to stay at home with their children-- the data show that most mothers are continuing to increase their participation in the labor force, even during the current recession. More women are working than ever before. Married mothers and mothers of very young children have increased their labor force participation most.

     
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    Food Stamp Participation and the Economic Well Being of Single Mothers
    by Andrew Groat and Kris Ronan (August 1995)

    In new research entitled "Food Stamps and AFDC: A Double Life-Line for Low-Income Single Working Mothers," the Institute for Women's Policy Research shows that eligible families of single working mothers are more likely to participate in the Food Stamp Program during the months in which they receive Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC). The study also shows that major losses in family purchasing power occur when they do not receive food stamp benefits but are eligible to do so.

     
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    Unemployment Insurance: Barriers to Access for Women and Part-Time Workers
    by Young-Hee Yoon, Roberta Spalter-Roth, and Marc Baldwin (July 1995)

     

    Children and Families in the District of Columbia: Child Care Needs
    by (May 1995)

    Washington, D.C. is a city that is in transition. The District of Columbia's population has been declining for several decades. The diversity of the population, e.g., race/ ehnicity, living arrangements, geography has increased, however. The District's child population is a big part of the change. Whole the under age 18 population decreased, the number of births to D.C. residents increased. Child care in the nation's capital, like the nation in general, is essential. the increased labor force participation of mothers, increased poverty rates, and the increasing evidence of positive effects of preschool on poor children, has made understanding the demographics of children and their families very necessary.

     

    Welfare to Work: The Job Opportunities of AFDC Recipients
    by (March 1995)

    In a frenzy to move welfare recipients off the roles through budget cuts, block grants, time limits, cries to "end welfare as we know it," and attempts to exclude children and young mothers from coverage, little attention has been paid to what works to help current AFDC recipients find work and earn wages that will help them escape poverty. The Institute for Women's Policy Research (IWPR) has conducted research and analysis on the current survival strategies of AFDC recipients. IWPR's most recent phase of this study, welfare That Works: The Working Lives of AFDC Recipients, examines the factors that increase the likelihood that single mothers receiving AFDC engage in paid employment, the kinds of jobs they obtain, and the factors that improve their prospects for obtaining better jobs (and higher incomes). IWPR's research suggests that if employment opportunities are not reformed along with welfare, efforts to reduce the rolls will likely result in increased poverty for many single mothers and their children and increased frustration for tax payers who will see yet another "reform" to go awry.

     

    Welfare That Works: The Working Lives of AFDC Recipients
    by (March 1995)

    In the latest campaign to move recipients of Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) off the welfare rolls through time-limiting benefits and ending entitlements, little attention has been paid to what will work to increase the likelihood that AFDC recipients can find work and earn wages above the barest minimum. In Welfare that Works: The Working Lives of AFDC Recipients, IWPR answers the question of "what works" by examining the current survival strategies of AFDC recipients. IWPR's study focuses on the jobs many women who receive welfare already hold. The study analyzes the factors that increase the likelihood that single mothers receiving AFDC also engage in paid employment, the kinds of jobs that they obtain, and their ability to escape poverty through a combination of work and welfare receipt.

     
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    Temporary Disability Insurance: A Model to Provide Income Security Over the Life Cycle
    by Heidi Hartmann, Young-Hee Yoon, Roberta Spalter-Roth, Lois Shaw (January 1995)

    An IWPR paper presented at the 1995 Annual Meetings of the American Economics Association of the Allied Social Science Associations. Argues for the need to change the traditional social welfare system to allow for demographic changes, family diversity, and women's need for income replacement across the life cycle. Presents estimates of the cost of extending Temporary Disability Insurance to provide paid family care leave, using California as an example. Available by mail in limited quantities. E-mail iwpr [at] iwpr [dot] org to place an order.

     
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    Micro-Enterprise Catalysts and Barriers: Voices of Low-Income and Poor Women
    by Roberta Spalter-Roth, Enrique Soto, and Lily Zandniapour (October 1994)

    Supporters of micro-enterprise argue that self-employment is a strategy that can improve the economic well being of low-income families and promote economic development in poverty-stricken urban communities. IWPR's study "Micro-Enterprise and Women" investigates self-employment and micro-enterprise as a strategy to enhance the income package of women receiving Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) and other low-income women. The development of micro-enterprise ventures among low-income women could contribute to the economic well-being of their families, provided that this activity is viewed as part of an income package rather than as the sole source of family support. Our study links IWPR's previous work on income packaging with our analysis of self employment.

     
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    The Clinton Round: An Analysis of the Impact of Current Proposals to "Free" Single Mothers from Welfare Dependence
    by Roberta Spalter-Roth, Ph.D, and Heidi Hartmann, Ph.D (August 1994)

    Since its beginnings, there has been heated public debate about whether AFDC should be a relatively ungenerous stop-gap program, or an anti-poverty program specifically designed to meet the needs of families headed by single women. In the latest round of this debate, the growing rhetoric has emerged that AFDC should be a stop-gap program that emphasizes transitions to paid employment rather than "welfare dependency." Is this new round of welfare reform likely to enable more single mothers and their children to live above the poverty level, or will it be another failed attempt to address a problem constructed by political rhetoric? The purpose of this paper to examine the likelihood that current proposals will aid AFDC recipients to bring their families out of poverty. The estimates and analysis are based on the actual income sources and job characteristics of a nationally representative sample of AFDC recipients generated from the 1984-1988 panels of the US Bureau of the Census' Survey of Income and Program Participation. The findings suggest that unless changes are enacted in the low-wage labor market, or income supplementation policies are designed that specifically address the family care needs of these women, many could wind up worse after a transition to work that "frees" them from dependence on welfare. We conclude by suggesting policy strategies that could successfully alter the circumstances of poor single mothers and bring them and their families out of poverty.

     
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    Few Welfare Moms Fit the Stereotypes
    by Jill Braustein (August 1994)

    In contrast to stereotypes of pathological dependency on public assistance, single mothers participating in the AFDC program actually "package" income from several different sources, including paid employment, means- and non-means tested welfare benefits, and income from other family members, to provide for themselves and their children. These patterns are described in a new Institute for Women's Policy Research (IWPR) study, "Welfare that Works," based on a nationally-representative sample of single welfare mothers generated from the US Bureau of the Census' Survey of Income and Program Participation. The study presents a complex portrait of women who participate in the AFDC program.

     

    Women's Health Insurance Costs and Experiences
    by Women's Research and Education Institute (June 1994)

    This report is part of the Join Project on Women's Health Care Policy Research of the Women's Research and Education Institute and the Institute for Women's Policy Research. The project was funded by the Kaiser Family Foundation, as part of the Kaiser Health Reform Project. This report focuses on health insurance coverage and expenditures for reproductive and preventive services among women of childbearing age (age 15 to 44). It provides the latest and most comprehensive measures of' the adequacy of women's health insurance coverage for all health care services and for reproductive and preventive health services in particular. Measurements of the adequacy of health insurance coverage used in this report include: 1) the percent of total expenditures covered by health insurance; 2) the level of out-of-pocket expenditures; and 3) out-of-pocket expenditures in relation to income.

     
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    Micro-Enterprise and Women: The Viability of Self-Employment as a Strategy for Alleviating Poverty
    by Enrique Soto, Lily Zandniapour and Jill Braunstein (June 1994)

    Supporters of micro-enterprise argue that self-employment is a strategy that can improve the economic well-being of low-income families and promote economic development in poverty stricken urban areas. IWPR's study "Micro-Enterprise and Women" investigates self-employment and micro-enterprise as strategies to enhance the income package of women receiving Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) as well as other low-income women.

     
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    Micro-enterprise and women: The Viability of Self-Employment as a Strategy for Alleviating Poverty
    by Roberta Spalter-Roth, Enrique Soto, and Lily Zandniapour (May 1994)

    In this study, IWPR assesses the factors that result in successful use of micro-enterprise as part of the income-package of AFDC recipients and other low-income women.

     
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    Income Insecurity: The Failure of Unemployment Insurance to Reach Out to Working AFDC Mothers
    by Roberta Spalter-Roth, Heidi Hartmann, and Beverly Burr (March 1994)

    Unemployment Insurance (UI) was designed as a program to benefit full-time, full-year workers, usually with male bodies, facing periods of temporary layoff. In many states receipt of benefits requires relatively high prior earnings and involuntary reasons for job loss (with interruptions due to childbirth or family responsibilities usually disqualified as "voluntary quits"). Because female heads of households tend to have less continuity of employment than do male heads of families, they are twice as likely to face unemployment without UI benefits. If Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC), the primary income support program for impoverished single mothers and their children, becomes a time-limited program that promotes employment in the low-wage labor market, can UI serve as an effective substitute for AFDC, providing income security during periods of unemployment and non-employment?

     
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    Women and Welfare Reform: Women's Poverty, Women's Opportunities, and Women's Welfare Conference Proceedings
    by Gwendolyn Mink (March 1994)

    Transcript of presentations and discussions at a conference sponsored by IWPR, chaired by the late Congresswoman Patsy Mink, and co-chaired by Congresswomen Lynn Woolsey and Maxine Waters and Congressman Ed Pastor. Held in Washington, DC, in October 1993. Topics include welfare myths and women's lives, welfare reform proposals, women's employment opportunities, and alternatives to welfare. Pwerful and timeless analysis by feminist scholars such as Mimi Abramovitz, Richard Cloward, Lynne Burbridge, Martha Davis, and Linda Gordon. Available by mail in limited quantities. E-mail iwpr [at] iwpr [dot] org to place an order.

     
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