Sunday, September 20, 2009

Men lie, women lie, but numbers don't - let's talk about women and poverty shall we?

If you're like me, after watching the above video of a 19yr old single mother talk about her struggle, you feel bad for her. Her story is nothing new, and can be heard all across the country. The one thing that stands out, was when she said that she hadn't seen the father of her child since her delivery 8mths prior to shooting that interview. Her being Black it's easy to assume that she's just another sister who has to suffer at the hands of an irresponsible Black man. Yep, you know how that infamous 70% of Black kids being raised in homes lead by single mothers line has us programmed to believe that Black men aren't shit. But see ladies and gentlemen, the problem is way beyond what's perceived.

You see, many of you may think the woman in the video above represents the norm. That would be, a single unmarried female who has kids out of wedlock, but this is not true. In fact, many currently unmarried mothers were married at some point, but too often, the loss of a husband greatly increases a family’s likelihood of falling into poverty. In 2008, 36% of poor unmarried mothers were divorced, widowed, or separated. So much for the notion that all poor unmarried mothers, making the mistake of having children out of wedlock, right? But keeping it real as I always do, I can't help but to note that risk of poverty for women of color is even greater, especially for those who are unmarried. Thirty percent of unmarried black women and 29.5% of unmarried Hispanic women - of any race - were poor in 2008, compared with 18.5% of unmarried white women. Hmm, so I guess Hispanic men, just like Black men aren't shit, right?

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Ultimately, the real problem here is the inequalities faced by women with or without children. But lets be honest: women with kids fare worse. This is America folks, and one can only imagine how much these numbers have been inflated from last year given our current economy. Speaking of which: Did you know that the majority of adults living in poverty were women? As a matter of fact, per recent U.S. Census results, 59% of adults in poverty are women; and 13 percent of all adult women are in poverty. Yeah I know, that's a lot of single women with kids left holding the bag, right? Well, that's not exactly true. According to the report, the majority of unmarried women living in poverty are elderly.

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It's sad but true; more than one in five (22.2%) women living in poverty are elderly women age 60 and older. Losing a husband to death or divorce can be devastating to women’s quality of life and greatly increases risk of poverty. Because the vast majority (95%) of today’s elderly population has married at some point, older women who are poor are almost all previously married. The new Census figures bear this out. Widows accounted for nearly half (45.6%) of poor women age 60 and older in 2008, and 65% of those over 75. So next time you think about ridiculing Black men for the problems Black women face. Take a minute to remember that the problem of women in poverty is not just a Black thing. And more importantly, remember or realize that our society is not as egalitarian as we would like to think it is.

Data Sources:

U.S. Census Bureau, Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2008

U.S. Census Bureau, Data Ferret, Current Population Survey, Annual Social and Economic Supplement, March 2009 (Link)


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