Economic snapshot | Inequality and Poverty

Two in five female-headed families with children live in poverty

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The epidemic of poverty receives a fair amount of attention around the holiday season, even though its impact is felt year-round by millions of Americans. As the figure below, from The State of Working America 12th Edition, shows, far too many families—of all types—experience poverty in the United States.

The poverty rate for all families was 11.8 percent in 2011. For families with children, the poverty rate was more than 50 percent higher at 18.5 percent. Worse yet, the poverty rate for female-headed families with children was 40.9 percent, nearly 87 percent higher than that of male-headed families with children.

Poverty rates of married couples with children are much lower—8.8 percent in 2011—in part because these families can have two wage earners. Less fortunate Americans would be in even worse shape if not for valuable government resources such as: food stamps, housing assistance, medical care, school lunches, the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), energy assistance, and other essential programs.


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