Informing policy. Inspiring change. Improving lives.
1200 18th Street NW, Suite 301
Washington, DC 20036
202 785-5100


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 2013 tells us that 55.6 percent of the 45.3 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, 15.8 percent are young women of ages 18 to 34, compared to 11.8 percent of 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.


Visit our external resources page for links to more information on this topic.

To see our experts on this and other initiatives, click here.

Latest Reports from IWPR

Tools for Student Parent Success: Varieties of Campus Child Care
by Todd Boressoff (March 2012)

This toolkit is the first in a series by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR). It introduces the wide variety of child care services that exist at institutions of higher learning. Rather than an exhaustive study of campus child care programs, it is an introduction to possible options. It is for those seeking to provide quality child care at colleges or universities and for those considering how to expand or rethink existing services.

#C393, Toolkit, 19 pages

Women and Men Living on the Edge: Economic Insecurity After the Great Recession
by Jeffrey Hayes, Ph.D. and Heidi Hartmann, Ph.D. (September 2011)

The IWPR/Rockefeller Survey of Economic Security, like several other recent surveys, finds that the effects of the 2007–2009 recession, known as the Great Recession, are both broad and deep. The IWPR/Rockefeller survey shows that more than one and a half years after the recession came to an official end, and the recovery supposedly began, many women and men report that they are still suffering significant hardships. They are having difficulty paying for basics like food (26 million women and 15 million men), health care (46 million women and 34 million men), rent or mortgage (32 million women and 25 million men), transportation (37 million women and 28 million men), utility bills (41 million women and 27 million men), and they have difficulty saving for the future (65 million women and 53 million men). On almost every measure of insecurity and hardship the survey reveals the Great Recession has visited more hardship on women than it has on men.

C386, Report, 102 pages

Women, Poverty, and Economic Insecurity in Wisconsin and the Milwaukee-Waukesha-West Allis MSA
by Claudia Williams and Ariane Hegewisch (April 2011)

Since the beginning of the recession in 2007, with its high unemployment and rising poverty rates, more families than ever are struggling to make ends meet. This briefing paper analyzes the impact of the recession on Wisconsin's families. It finds that nearly two-thirds of all households in poverty in Wisconsin are headed by single women and, across-theboard, women are more likely than men to be poor. Families headed by single mothers and families depending on women’s wages have been the hardest hit.

#R347, Briefing Paper, 8 pages

Improving Child Care Access to Promote Postsecondary Success Among Low-Income Parents
by Kevin Miller, Ph.D., Barbara Gault, Ph.D., and Abby Thorman, Ph.D. (March 2011)

This report examines the role of child care as a crucial support for parents who pursue postsecondary education.

#C378, Report, 54 pages

Social Security: Especially Vital to Women and People of Color, Men Increasingly Reliant
by Heidi Hartmann, Ph.D., Jeff Hayes, Ph.D. and Robert Drago, Ph.D. (January 2011)

Social Security is the bedrock of retirement income for older Americans. IWPR analysis of the 2010 Current Population Survey Annual Social and Economic Supplement (ASEC) shows that Social Security remains the largest source of income for older Americans.

#D494, Report, 22 pages,

Student Parents Face Significant Challenges to Postsecondary Success
by Kevin Miller, Ph.D. (November 2010)


Child Care at College Campuses: a Critical Resource for Student Parents
by Kevin Miller, Ph.D. (October 2010)

Testimony of Kevin Miller, Ph.D.,Institute for Women’s Policy Research, before the Committee on Higher Education of the New York City Council


2010 Portrait of Women & Girls in the Washington Metropolitan Area
by Barbara Gault, Ph.D. and Layla Moughari (September 2010)

(Produced by Washington Area Women’s Foundation, Urban Institute, the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, Trinity University, the Girl Scout Council of the Nation’s Capital) In 2003, Washington Area Women’s Foundation released A Portrait of Women & Girls in the Washington Metropolitan Area, with the goal of presenting a clear picture of the lives of women and girls in the region—the District of Columbia, Prince George’s and Montgomery Counties in Maryland, Arlington and Fairfax Counties in Virginia, and the City of Alexandria, Virginia—that could be used as a basis for action.


Women in New Orleans: Race, Poverty, and Hurricane Katrina
by Allison Suppan Helmuth and Jane M. Henrici, Ph.D. (August 2010)

IWPR analysis of American Community Survey (ACS) and U.S. Census Bureau data1 reveals that after Hurricane Katrina and the evacuation of New Orleans in August 2005, the city’s demographics have changed with respect to race and economic status among women.


Women, Disasters, and Hurricane Katrina
by Jane M. Henrici, Ph.D., Allison Suppan Helmuth, and Jackie Braun (August 2010)

Major disasters during the last decade have pushed planners and researchers to examine more closely the disparities among those hurt when crises hit. Research suggests that women often suffer disproportionately in comparison to most men when disaster strikes, while the elderly, and people in poverty, are more vulnerable than those with more mobility and those with greater access to resources. According to reports addressing disasters occurring outside of the United States, 1.5 times as many women as men died during the 1995 Kobe earthquake, and three times as many women as men died from the 2004 Asian tsunami; age and income level were contributing factors.


Mounting Losses: Women and Public Housing After Hurricane Katrina
by Jane M. Henrici, Ph.D., Allison Suppan Helmuth, and Rhea Fernandes (August 2010)

New Orleans public housing apartments five years ago were home to thousands of families. The residents held jobs, attended schools, and participated in New Orleans culture and its communities over the decades the developments stood. When the city’s levees ruptured and the brick apartments flooded, residents fled and found shelter in other towns and cities. The disaster emptied New Orleans and destroyed much of its housing. Five years later, market rates for renting private apartments have risen, nearly all of the old public apartments have been removed while the new remain under construction, and former residents of public housing are still displaced. For public housing tenants, most of whom were low-income African American women and their families, housing support in New Orleans has been transformed.


Women in Poverty during the Great Recession
by Jane M. Henrici, Ph.D., Allison Suppan Helmuth, Frances Zlotnick, and Jeff Hayes, Ph.D. (July 2010)

#D493, Briefing Paper,

Costs And Benefits Of In-Home Supportive Services For The Elderly And Persons With Disabilities: A California Case Study
by Candace Howes, Ph.D. (May 2010)

This Briefing Paper summarizes the conclusions of the California Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO) report from January 2010, which argued that IHSS is just barely cost effective to the state, and shows that some of the LAO’s assumptions are unrealistic. It presents a more realistic set of assumptions and then re‐estimates the relative benefits of the IHSS program. Finally, it considers the savings to the state if, instead of cutting or part of the IHSS program, the state transitioned one‐third of nursing home residents back into the community.

#E512, Briefing Paper, 18 pages

The Female Face of Poverty and Economic Insecurity: The Impact of the Recession on Women in Pennsylvania and Pittsburgh MSA
by Ariane Hegewisch, Claudia Williams (January 2010)

#R345, Briefing Paper, 6 pages

Unemployment Among Single Mother Families
by Ashley English, Heidi Hartmann, Ph.D., Ariane Hegewisch (August 2009)

Women who maintain families without a spouse present are almost twice as likely as married men to be unemployed, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics for August 2009. One of every eight women (12.2 percent) who are the sole breadwinners in their families is unemployed compared with one of every sixteen married men.

#C369, fact sheet, 4 pages

Women at Greater Risk of Economic Insecurity: A Gender Analysis of the Rockefeller Foundation’s American Worker Survey
by Vicky Lovell, Ph.D., Heidi Hartmann, Ph.D., Claudia Williams (April 2008)

In February 2007, at the request of the Rockefeller Foundation, the consulting firm Yankelovich fielded a survey to explore Americans’ sense of economic insecurity. The Institute for Women’s Policy Research analyzed the survey data to explore impacts based on gender, racial and ethnic identity, education, employment status, and other important demographic characteristics. This report highlights IWPR’s findings.

#D482, report, 27 pages

Women in the Wake of the Storm: Examining the Post-Katrina Realities of the Women of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast (Executive Summary)
by Avis Jones-DeWeever, Ph.D. (April 2008)


Women in the Wake of the Storm: Examining the Post-Katrina Realities of the Women of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast
by Avis Jones-DeWeever, Ph.D. (April 2008)

This report puts to paper the perspectives of women gathered through a series of semi-structured one-on-one and small group interviews with thirty-eight women in New Orleans and Slidell, Louisiana as well as in Biloxi and Gulfport, Mississippi. The women included in this study ranged in age from 19 to 66 and are of diverse racial/ethnic backgrounds, including Black, White, Creole, and Latina. Each woman contributed to their communities as volunteers, activists, community organizers, or professionals engaged in public service careers. Many, but not all, were involved with organizations that focused specifically on issues of concern to women. Each sought, in some way, not just to meet immediate needs in the communities where they work, but also to address the long-standing pre-Katrina structures of advantage and disadvantage that ultimately exacerbated the tragedy of the storm’s aftermath.

#D481, Report, 36 pages

Resilient and Reaching for More: Challenges and Benefits of Higher Education for Welfare Participants and Their Children
by Avis A. Jones-DeWeever, PhD and Barbara Gault, PhD (February 2008)


From Work to Retirement: Tracking Changes in Women's Poverty Status
by Sunhwa Lee, Ph.D., and Lois Shaw, Ph.D. (January 2008)

Document Actions
Go to Home Page