Women and Poverty

Poverty is an issue that affects many people. In 2013 the U.S. poverty rate was 14.5%, meaning that there were 45.3 million people living in poverty.

Nearly 6 in 10 adults living in poverty are women, and nearly six in 10 children living in poverty are part of families headed by women.

Challenges to Escaping Poverty

Poverty rates are particularly high for women who head families (39.6%), African American women (25.3%), Hispanic “Hispanic” is used in census data to represent Hispanic and Latinx populations women (23.1%), and women 65 and older living alone (19%). Poverty declined for Hispanic women between 2012 and 2013. Among these groups, they were the only one to see a statistically significant change.

In the U.S. there are government assistance programs to help those living in poverty. However, they are often threatened with cuts and restrictions that may make them difficult to access or inadequate for those who need them most.

Legislative Efforts to Address Income Inequality

Pay inequality and family leave issues, along with the expense of childcare, make it very difficult for people living in poverty to improve their financial situation. This is especially true for single mothers with young children.

The impact of poverty as a women’s issue cannot be overstated. Policies such as the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) seek to address these issues of income inequality and the pressure of family care for working people. And in Minnesota, the Women’s Economic Security Act of 2014 is making some headway in creating equity Giving everyone what they need to be successful. (Equality is treating everyone the same) for women.

Equal Rights Amendment

The relative lack of political power held by women makes issues like equal pay and employment opportunity less likely to be addressed legislatively. The proposed Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), which would have guaranteed equal rights for women under the law passed in 1972 but was not ratified Approved by a governing body by enough states to become an amendment.

The amendment needed just three more states to win ratification. It states “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.” The ERA has been introduced to Congress during every congressional session since 1923.

You don't make progress by standing on the sidelines, whimpering and complaining. You make progress by implementing ideas.”
Shirley Chisholm, First Black Congresswoman

Renewed Movement

There is a current movement today to request Congress to reopen the ratification process. If the legislation were to pass, the process would pick up where it ended in 1979,  meaning that if three additional states ratify the ERA, it will become law.

The 15 states whose legislatures have not ratified the Equal Rights Amendment are:

Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Utah and Virginia.

ERA Ratification Map

ERA Ratification Map; Source: http://www.equalrightsamendment.org/states.htm