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Women and Poverty

Narrative

In 2010, more than 46 million people in the United States lived with incomes below the poverty level, representing 15.1 percent of the U.S. population.1 More than 17 million of those were women aged 18 and older, accounting for 14.5 percent of the adult female population. In comparison, 11.2 percent of adult men lived in poverty (data not shown in graph images or in data tables on this site). With regard to race and ethnicity, non-Hispanic White women were least likely to experience poverty (10.4 percent), followed by non-Hispanic Asian women (12.2 percent). In contrast, about one-quarter of Hispanic, non-Hispanic Black, and non-Hispanic American Indian/Alaska Native women lived in poverty.

Poverty status varies with age. Among women of each race and ethnicity, those aged 45–64 years and 65 years and older were less likely to experience poverty than those aged 18–44. For instance, 30.0 percent of non-Hispanic Black women aged 18-44 were living in poverty in 2010, compared to approximately 20 percent of those aged 45 years and older.

Poverty status also varies with educational attainment. Among women aged 25 years and older in 2010, one-third (33.2 percent) of those without a high school diploma were living in poverty, compared to 15.6 percent of those with a high school diploma or equivalent, 10.5 percent of those with some college and 4.6 percent of those with a Bachelor's degree or higher (data not shown in graph images or in data tables on this site).

In 2010, 11.7 percent of families—a group of at least two people related by birth, marriage, or adoption and residing together—were living in poverty. Married-couple families were least likely to be poor (6.2 percent). Among single-headed households with no spouse present, those headed by an adult female were twice as likely to be poor as those headed by an adult male (31.5 versus 15.6 percent). Overall, women in families were more likely than men to be poor (11.5 versus 7.9 percent; data not shown in graph images or in data tables on this site).

1 The U.S. Census Bureau uses a set of money income thresholds that vary by family size and composition to determine who is poor. If a family's total income is less than that family's threshold, then that family and every individual in it is considered to be poor. Examples of 2010 poverty levels were $11,139 for an individual and $22,314 for a family of four. These levels differ from the poverty guidelines used to determine eligibility for Federal programs.

Graphs

Data

Women Aged 18 and Older Living Below the Poverty Level,* by Race/Ethnicity and Age, 2010
Race/Ethnicity Percent of Women
Total 18-44 Years 45-64 Years 65 Years and Older
*Poverty level, defined by the U.S. Census Bureau, was $22,314 for a family of four in 2010. Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Current Population Survey, Annual Social and Economic Supplement, 2011. Current Population Survey Table Creator. Accessed 06/15/12.
Non-Hispanic White 10.4 13.3 8.4 8.3
Non-Hispanic Black 25.5 30.0 20.7 20.6
Hispanic 25.0 28.5 18.8 20.9
Non-Hispanic American Indian/Alaska Native 25.0 29.4 21.2 16.4
Non-Hispanic Asian 12.2 13.2 9.3 15.0
Non-Hispanic Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islander 20.3 24.3 16.9 4.6
Non-Hispanic Multiple Race 16.5 17.0 12.9 22.5
Adults in Families* Living Below the Poverty Level,** by Household Type and Sex, 2010
Household Type Percent of Families
*Families are groups of at least two people related by birth, marriage, or adoption and residing together.
**Poverty level, defined by the U.S. Census Bureau, was $22,314 for a family of four in 2010. Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Current Population Survey, Annual Social and Economic Supplement, 2011. Current Population Survey Table Creator. Accessed 06/15/12.
All Families 11.7
Married-Couple Families 6.2
Male-Headed Families, No Spouse Present 15.6
Female-Headed Families, No Spouse Present 31.5