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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 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.


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Latest Reports from IWPR

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.

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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.

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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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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.

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