Report: One-Third of U.S. Women Live ‘In or Near’ Poverty

LOS ANGELES —One-third of U.S. women live in or near poverty, a release about a new report, to be unveiled Jan. 12, says.

            A Woman’s Nation Pushes Back From The Brink, commissioned by the Center for American Progress and a foundation run by activist Maria Shriver, also puts to rest the common, outmoded picture of U.S. families headed by a working husband, a stay-at-home wife and several kids.
            Instead, with two-thirds of U.S. women of working age toiling at jobs and being their families’ primary breadwinner or co-breadwinner, only one-fifth of women are in that old stereotype, says Shriver, whose father, Sargent Shriver, was the first head of the War on Poverty, 50 years ago.
            Now, 42 million women and 28 million children are one lost paycheck or medical disaster away from falling off the edge into poverty, if they already aren’t there, the report, available also as an eBook and from shriverreport.org, says.
            “The typical American family isn’t what it used to be,” Shriver said in a pre-publication statement.  “The solutions we need today are also different.  We don’t need a new New Deal, because the New Deal was an all-government solution, and that’s not enough anymore.  And my father’s War on Poverty isn’t enough anymore either.
            “Women have enormous power.  Politicians knock themselves out wooing us because we’re a majority of voters in this country.  Every corporate marketer and advertiser is after us because we make as much as 70% of this country’s consumer decisions and more than 80% of healthcare decisions.
            “We must recognize that our government programs, business practices, educational system, and media messages don’t take into account a fundamental truth: This nation cannot have sustained economic prosperity and well-being until women’s new, central role is recognized and women’s economic health is used as a measure — perhaps it should be the measure — to shape common-sense policies and priorities for the 21st century.
            “In other words, leave out the women, and you don’t have a full and robust economy. Lead with the women, and you do. It’s that simple, and Americans know it.”
            The War on Poverty cut poverty over the last 50 years by 43%, Shriver said, but there are still holes in that safety net and the report advocates filling them.  They include enacting mandatory paid maternity leave, paid sick leave and a living wage.  Shriver notes that women are nearly two-thirds of the nation’s minimum wage workers.
            One of every 20 workers in the U.S. earns the federal minimum wage of $7.25 hourly, or less, federal figures show.
            “We women can exert real pressure on our government to change course on many of the issues we care about and deliver on what women need now to rise up from the brink,” Shriver says.  Nationwide polls show huge majorities supporting paid sick leave, equal pay for equal work and paid maternity leave, among other measures.
            When her father ran the War on Poverty, “The phrase ‘poverty in America’ came with images of poor children in Appalachian shacks and inner-city alleys,” she adds.
            “Fifty years later, the lines separating the middle class from the working poor and the working poor from those in absolute poverty have blurred.  The new iconic image of the economically insecure American is a working mother dashing around getting ready in the morning, brushing her kid’s hair with one hand and doling out medication to her own aging mother with the other.  For the millions of American women who live this way, the dream of ‘having it all’ has morphed into ‘just hanging on.’”
-PAI