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Women's Health USA 2013 An illustrated collection of current and historical data, published annually.

Women and Poverty

Narrative

In 2011, more than 46 million people in the United States lived with incomes below the poverty level, representing 15.0 percent of the U.S. population.1,2 Approximately 17.7 million of those were women aged 18 and older, accounting for 14.6 percent of the adult female population. In comparison, 10.9 percent of adult men (or 12.4 million) 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 (10.6 percent), followed by non-Hispanic Asian women (11.9 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, 29.2 percent of non-Hispanic Black women aged 18–44 were living in poverty in 2011, compared to 22.5 percent of those aged 45–64 years, and 20.5 percent of those aged 65 years and older.

Poverty status also varies with educational attainment. Among women aged 25 years and older in 2011, nearly one-third (32.8 percent) of those without a high school diploma were living in poverty, compared to 16.0 percent of those with a high school diploma or equivalent, 11.5 percent of those with some college education, and 4.9 percent of those with a Bachelor’s degree or higher (data not shown in graph images or in data tables on this site).

In 2011, 11.8 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 (31.2 versus 16.1 percent, respectively). Overall, women in families were more likely than men to be poor (11.4 versus 8.0 percent, respectively; 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 2011 poverty levels were $11,484 for an individual and $23,021 for a family of four. These levels differ from the poverty guidelines used to determine eligibility for Federal programs.

2 DeNavas-Walt C, Proctor BD, and Smith JC. U.S. Census Bureau. Current Population Reports, P60-243, Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2011. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office; 2012.

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Graphs

Data

Women Aged 18 and Older Living Below the Poverty Level,* by Race/Ethnicity and Age, 2011
Race/Ethnicity Percent of Women 18-44 Years Percent of Women 45-64 Years Percent of Women 65 Years and Older Total Percent of Women
*Poverty level, defined by the U.S. Census Bureau, was $23,021 for a family of four in 2011.
Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Current Population Survey (CPS) Table Creator II for the Annual Social and Economic Supplement.
Non-Hispanic White 13.4 8.7 8.5 10.6
Non-Hispanic Black 29.2 22.5 20.5 25.7
Hispanic 27.0 18.7 19.7 23.9
Non-Hispanic American Indian/Alaska Native 34.2 22.3 12.9 27.7
Non-Hispanic Asian 13.5 8.6 13.3 11.9
Non-Hispanic Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islander 16.0 Estimate does not meet the standard of reliability; numerator <20. Estimate does not meet the standard of reliability; numerator <20. 13.5
Non-Hispanic Multiple Race 22.0 16.0 16.2 19.8

Families,* Living Below the Poverty Level,** by Household Type, 2011

Percent of Families:

  • All Families 11.8
  • Married-Couple Families 6.2
  • Female-Headed Families, No Spouse Present 31.2
  • Male-Headed Families, No Spouse Present 16.1

*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 $23,021 for a family of four in 2011.

Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Current Population Survey (CPS) Table Creator II for the Annual Social and Economic Supplement.