The Feminization of Poverty?
This paper uses Census of Population and Current Population Survey data to describe and analyze the sex-incidence of poverty in 1959, 1969, 1979, and 1984 according to a fixed standard and a standard that changes with national per capita real income. The popular view that there was a large increase in the percent of adult poor who are women and that this trend has accelerated in recent years is not supported by the data. There was considerable feminization of poverty in the 1960s, but in the 1970s the sex mix of poverty was relatively constant, and between 1979 and 1984 women's share decreased. The trend in feminization was more severe for blacks than for whites, primarily as a result of disparate trends in the 1970s. Statistical decomposition of the changes shows that an increase in the proportion of women in households without men was the principal source of feminization of poverty and the principal reason why the trend was more adverse for blacks than whites.