Population Characteristics

Women and Poverty

In 2004, nearly 37 million people in the United States lived with incomes below the Federal poverty level.1 The poverty rate for all women 18 years and older in 2004 was 12.7 percent (representing 14.3 million women), compared to a rate of 9.3 percent for men. Women in families, those who live with people to whom they are directly related, experience higher rates of poverty than men in families (9.8 versus 6.7 percent). Men in households with no spouse present are considerably less likely to have incomes below the poverty level than women in households with no spouse present (11.8 versus 24.8 percent).

Education is related to poverty as well. The poverty rate among women with no high school diploma is 28.3 percent; this is far higher than the rate among women with a high school diploma (12.3 percent). Women with at least a 4-year college degree experience the lowest poverty rate (4.5 percent).

1 The 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 2004 poverty levels were $9,645 for an individual, $12,334 for a family of two, $15,067 for a family of three, and $19,307 for a family of four.

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Women's Health USA 2006 is not copyrighted. Readers are free to duplicate and use all or part of the information contained on this page. Suggested Citation: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration, Women's Health USA 2006. Rockville, Maryland: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2006.