We Are the Invisible Poor

BlogHer Original Post

Did you know that women's poverty rates rose 14.5% last year, the highest level in 17 years? And that more than 7.5 million women are in "extreme poverty," which is defined as having an income under half of the federal poverty guidelines?

I didn't, until I read Leslie Bennetts' article in the Daily Beast.

Statue of Seated Woman

Credit Image: Dave Stokes on Flickr

Ms. Bennetts titled her article "Women: The Invisible Poor," because though major news outlets covered the release of the Census Bureau's latest results on poverty, the coverage did not include this dire progression of women's economic well-being. Fortunately, the National Women's Law Center (NWLC) provided some much-needed data mining. According to the article:

When the NWLC crunched the latest numbers from the Census Bureau, the results showed that record numbers of women are living in poverty. And in news that should surprise no one, the findings reveal that millions of those women do not have health insurance.

The news is glum. There are more women living in poverty than men (17 million vs. 12.6 million). Older women receive the brunt of the disparity - there are twice as many impoverished women over 65 than there are impoverished men in the same age group. Minority women and single mothers fare even worse. Over a quarter of black and Hispanic woman and more than 40% of single mothers live in poverty. Health insurance is in short supply as well - almost 20% of women are uninsured in 2010. The proportion of women who are underinsured as likely higher. Given that medical emergencies cause many bankruptcies and propel those living on the poverty line over the edge, the lack of health coverage does not bode well for the future.

The economy has hurt almost everyone, I know. But I did not expect it to hit women so disproportionately. Now that I am learning more about this issue, here are a few changes I am making in my own life. One, I have redoubled my savings and investing efforts. I am lucky to have a safety net in terms of an emergency fund, an education, and family, but this article brought out some bag lady fears. Fear is apparently very good at getting me to save some more. Second, I have decided to focus my charity dollars on helping women here at home. So many times the spotlight shines on the plight of women overseas that we forget what is happening here in the U.S. Third, I have sent this article to my friends and family. I am not sure what dissemination of this information can do, honestly, but if part of the problem of women and poverty is the invisbility of the situation, then the more people know about the problem, the better.  

So here are my questions to you:

1. Has this news changed the way you handle your personal finances?

2. How can we, as women and as individuals, make a difference in this problem of poverty?

http://wellheeledblog.com http://twitter.com/wellheeledblog Savvy Living Through Personal Finance


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