No American has been immune to the challenges caused by the less-than-thrilling state of our economy. However, new statistics show that half of our population may be struggling a bit more than the other, more specifically the female half. The National Women’s Law Center (NWLC), in a new compilation of statistics, reports that a record number of women are living in poverty.In 2010, the poverty rate among women climbed from 13.9 percent in 2009 to an astonishing 14.5 percent, the highest rate reported in over seventeen years. In addition, the percentage of women living in extreme poverty climbed from 2009’s 5.9 percent to 6.3 percent in 2010.
If those statements alone haven’t shocked you enough, the following ratio is even more daunting:
Over 17 million women lived in poverty in 2010, including more than 7.5 million who are living in extreme poverty.
Americans are witnessing a startling and rapid growth in the depravity of a major class of individuals in our nation. This has a large effect on the status of American children as well. Although men and women both play integral roles in the success and survival of a child, child welfare has long been attached to that of their mothers. When the mother suffers, so does the child- or so the numbers show. The NWLC reports that black women, who serve as the heads of black households with children, are continuing to lose jobs while black men are adding jobs during recovery. With fewer jobs, women are unable to provide for their children. The growing number of women in poverty is in turn increasing the number of children in poverty. A survey of child welfare released by the Annie E. Casey Foundation reports that in 2009, 14.7 million children were living in poverty.
The Guttmacher Institute reports that the rate of unintended pregnancies among women who fall below the federal poverty line has risen. With more women in poverty bearing children who will be born into poverty, the problems continue to grow. That’s the sad part-a child doesn’t get to choose what kind of life it is born into.
In an upcoming study in Psychological Science, a journal published by The Association for Psychological Science reports “the stresses disadvantaged children undergo affect their physiological development, making them permanently vulnerable to infection and disease. One common outcome in adulthood is metabolic syndrome, a cluster of signs, including high blood pressure, impaired regulation of blood sugar and fats, and fat around the waist, that can precede chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease.” However, the study posits that the presence of a “good mom” can radically change the fate of these children. We can hope that these women are committing to the job of motherhood, but it can only be expected that the pressures of poverty may prevent them from providing the best for their child.
The poor status of our economy continues to raise unemployment figures, lower the number of jobs available, and eliminate funding for welfare, health care, and other aid organizations. Women may not be climbing out of poverty anytime soon – Neither will their children. With that in mind, it seems apparent that some Americans are in the midst of a very vicious cycle.
About this Author: Maria Saab is a law student intern at Workplace Fairness. Her Bachelor of Arts in International Studies combined with her career experiences working on Capitol Hill and with then-Senator Barack Obama’s presidential campaign in 2008 encouraged her to pursue law school. As a hopeful lawyer, she plans on specializing in regulatory law and hopes to one day concentrate her work efforts towards policy development.