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Feminization of Poverty

Susan W. Hinze and Dawn Aliberti


Diana Pearce (1978) coined the term “feminization of poverty” in the late 1970s to describe the increasing overrepresentation of women and children among the poor in the United States. Since then the gender gap in poverty has increased, although some evidence suggests that improvements in women's earnings are beginning to close the poverty gap between women and men ( McLanahan & Kelly 1999 ). Currently, of those in poverty, 38 percent are women, 26 percent are men, and 36 percent are children (US Census Bureau, 2004). However, the economic disadvantage of women is not a uniquely American experience, and scholarship in recent years highlights the need for a more global perspective on the feminization of poverty. The poverty line in the US is set by the Social Security Administration and calculated by multiplying the lowest cost for a nutritionally adequate food plan (as determined by the Department of Agriculture) by three. This calculation assumes a family spends one-third of its budget on food. Those falling below this set annual income are defined as poor and entitled to government assistance (for criticisms of the absolute poverty definition, see McLanahan & Kelly 1999 ). The official poverty rate in 2003 was 12.5 percent, or 35.9 million people, and the official poverty line for a family of four was $18,810 (US Census Bureau, 2004). The 2004 Annual Demographic Survey ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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