Poverty & Opportunity

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Poverty & Opportunity

Women’s status in the area of poverty and opportunity in the United States has improved on two indicators since the publication of IWPR’s 2004 Status of Women in the States report and declined on two others. The share of women with a bachelor’s degree or higher increased 6.9 percentage points during this time period, from 22.8 to 29.7 percent, and the share of women-owned businesses increased from 26.0 to 28.8 percent. The percent of women living above poverty, however, declined from 87.9 in 2002 to 85.4 in 2013 (IWPR 2004; U.S. Department of Commerce 2014a). The percent of women with health insurance in 2013 (81.5) was also slightly lower than in 2002 (82.3 percent), but the 2013 data do not reflect shifts in coverage following the passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) of 2010.

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National Overview

Women

Men

Percent with Health Insurance

81.5%

77.1%

Percent with a Bachelor’s Degree or Higher

29.7%

29.5%

Percent of Women or Men-Owned Businesses

28.8%

51.3%

Percent Above Poverty

84.5%

88.1%

Note: Percent with health insurance is for those aged 18-64; for percent with a bachelor’s degree or higher, aged 25 and older; for percent living above poverty, aged 18 and older.
Source: Data on women- and men-owned businesses are from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s 2007 Survey of Business Owners accessed through American Fact Finder. All other data are based on IWPR analysis of American Community Survey microdata (Integrated Public Use Microdata Series, Version 5.0).

 

Access to Health Insurance

Health insurance gives women access to critical health services. In the United States, 81.5 percent of nonelderly women (aged 18–64) have health insurance coverage, a slightly higher proportion than men of the same age range (77.1 percent; Figure 4.1). According to IWPR analysis of 2013 American Community Survey microdata, 59.6 percent of nonelderly women are insured through a union or employer, either their own or their spouse’s. Medicare covers 3.8 percent of nonelderly women, and Medicaid and other means-tested programs cover 15.6 percent. Approximately 9.5 percent of women have health insurance purchased directly from an insurance company.

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fig4.1
Percent with Health Insurance by Race and Ethnicity Women Men

White

86.8%

84.0%

Hispanic

64.0%

56.1%

Black

78.7%

70.4%

Asian/Pacific Islander

82.8%

80.4%

Native American

67.7%

59.1%

Other Race or Two or More Races

81.3%

76.5%

Total

81.5%

77.1%

Health Insurance by Source Women Men

Private

68.6%

66.7%

Through an Employer

59.6%

57.9%

Public

15.6%

13.9%

Medicaid

13.2%

9.6%

Purchased Directly

9.5%

9.1%

Medicare

3.8%

3.8%

Tricare

2.2%

2.8%

VA

0.5%

2.7%

Indian Health Services

0.5%

0.5%

Note: Aged 18 to 64. Racial groups are non-Hispanic. Hispanics may be of any race or two or more races. Not all types of health insurance coverage are listed. People may have more than one type of insurance.
Source: IWPR analysis of American Community Survey microdata (Integrated Public Use Microdata Series, Version 5.0).

 

Education

Women in the United States have closed the gender gap in education over the past several decades, aided in part by the passage of Title IX of the 1972 Education Amendments, which prohibited discrimination in educational institutions (Rose 2015). While men outnumbered women among those receiving bachelor’s degrees throughout the 1970s, women surpassed men in 1981 and have received more bachelor’s degrees in every year since then. During the 2012–2013 academic year, women comprised 57 percent of the nation’s college students (Rose 2015).

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fig4.3
Percent with Less than a High School Diploma by Race/Ethnicity Women Men

White

7.9%

8.8%

Hispanic

33.9%

36.8%

Black

14.8%

17.6%

Asian/Pacific Islander

15.5%

11.9%

Native American

17.1%

19.5%

Other Race or Two or More Races

10.1%

11.4%

Total

12.8%

14.1%

Percent with High School Diploma by Race/Ethnicity Women Men

White

28.4%

28.5%

Hispanic

26.0%

28.2%

Black

28.3%

35.1%

Asian/Pacific Islander

16.5%

15.0%

Native American

29.5%

34.8%

Other Race or Two or More Races

21.5%

25.0%

Total

27.3%

28.5%

Percent with Some College or an Associate’s Degree by Race/Ethnicity Women Men

White

31.2%

29.1%

Hispanic

24.9%

22.2%

Black

35.4%

30.8%

Asian/Pacific Islander

19.7%

19.9%

Native American

37.9%

32.0%

Other Race or Two or More Races

35.8%

33.2%

Total

30.3%

27.9%

Percent with a Bachelor’s Degree or Higher by Race/Ethnicity Women Men

White

32.5%

33.6%

Hispanic

15.3%

12.8%

Black

21.6%

16.6%

Asian/Pacific Islander

48.4%

53.2%

Native American

15.5%

13.7%

Other Race or Two or More Races

32.6%

30.5%

Total

29.7%

29.5%

Notes: Aged 25 and older. Racial categories are non-Hispanic. Hispanics may be of any race or two or more races.
Source: IWPR analysis of American Community Survey microdata (Integrated Public Use Microdata Series, Version 5.0).

 

Women's Business Owner and Self-Employment

Like education, business ownership can bring women increased control over their working lives and create financial and social opportunities. Nationally, 28.8 percent of businesses are women-owned (IWPR 2015b); the large majority are owner-operated and have no other employees (88.3 percent), which is also true for men-owned businesses, although the share of men-owned firms with no other employees is lower (U.S. Department of Commerce 2010). Business ownership can encompass various arrangements, from owning a corporation, to consulting, to providing child care in one’s home.

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waitress at cake store
Women Men
Percent of Women or Men-Owned Businesses 28.8% 51.3%
Percent of Workers Who Are Self-employed 7.0% 11.3%
Note: Data on self-employment are for those aged 16 and older.
Source: Data on Business Ownership are from U.S. Census Bureau; 2007 Survey of Business Owners and 2007 Population Estimates. Data on self-employment are IWPR analysis of American Community Survey microdata (Integrated Public Use Microdata Series, Version 5.0).

 

Women's Poverty and Economic Security

Women’s economic security is directly linked to their family income, which includes not only earnings from jobs and any other family members but also income from other sources, such as investments, retirement funds, Social Security, and government benefits. Many women in the United States enjoy comfortable family incomes, but others struggle to make ends meet. IWPR analysis of data from the Current Population Survey (U.S. Department of Commerce 2014a) indicates that 14.5 percent of women aged 18 and older in 2013 had family incomes that placed them below the federal poverty line, compared with 11.0 percent of men.

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fig4.5
Percent Living Below Poverty by Race and Ethnicity Women Men

White

11.7%

9.1%

Hispanic

24.0%

17.3%

Black

25.7%

20.4%

Asian/Pacific Islander

13.0%

12.2%

Native American

28.1%

24.4%

Other Race or Two or More Races

19.7%

15.3%

Total

15.5%

11.9%

Percent of Single Parents in Poverty

40.8%

22.8%

Percent in Poverty Without Health Insurance

35.4%

42.7%

Notes: Percent in poverty by race and ethnicity and percent of single parents in poverty, aged 18 and older. Percent in poverty without health insurance aged 18 to 64. Racial categories are non-Hispanic. Hispanics may be of any race or two or more races. Single parents include those with children under 18.
Source: IWPR analysis of American Community Survey microdata (Integrated Public Use Microdata Series, Version 5.0).

 

View Additional Data by State

View additional tables with state-level data on the indicators discussed in the Poverty & Opportunity section. State-level data are available for women’s and men’s access to health insurance,  educational attainment, self employment, poverty by race/ethnicity, and median income by household type. Much of the data is also disaggregated by race and ethnicity.

 

View the Additional Data by State
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Download the Data

State-level data for women and men are available for access to health insurance, educational attainment, self-employment, poverty by gender, poverty by race/ethnicity, poverty by household type, household income by household type, and more.