Latest Poverty Data Highlights Critical Need To Strengthen The Social Safety Net

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September 12, 2012

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The poverty report for 2011 released today by the Census Bureau indicates that the poverty rate was 15.0% in 2011, slightly less than the 15.1% rate in 2010, but well above the 12.3% rate in 2006, the year prior to the beginning of the ‘Great Recession.’ The 15% rate was the fourth highest in the past 45 years. The 40.9% poverty rate for single mother families was the highest since 1997.

Adult women had a higher poverty rate than adult men in 2011 as they have had in every year since official poverty measurement began in the 1960’s. The poverty rate for women was 14.6% compared to 10.9% for men. Women were 34% more likely to be poor than men, an increase from the 29% gender poverty gap in 2010. Legal Momentum today issued a report detailing the disparities, Women’s Poverty in the United States, 2011 - Poverty Rate Remains High, Gender Poverty Gap Grows.

Legal Momentum President Elizabeth Grayer states: “The Census data highlight the serious hardship facing many American families in the current economic crisis. The data indicate a high poverty rate and a continuing gender poverty gap in the United States – facts that underscore the need for a social safety net that is accessible and adequate. Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), the national welfare program for families with children, is neither. TANF's sub-poverty benefit levels ensure continued hardship for poor families. Barriers prevent eligible families from accessing benefits and TANF work rules block parents from participating in education and training programs that offer a permanent escape from welfare and poverty. The ever-increasing plague of poverty in America warrants an equally strong response. Congress and the Administration should not delay making sorely needed improvements to the TANF program.”

Grayer also states: “While we are disappointed by the high poverty and the gender poverty gap, we are gratified that this year’s poverty report for the first time highlights gender poverty disparities, a step Legal Momentum staff urged Census Bureau staff to take in a meeting earlier this year.”

About Legal Momentum

Founded in 1970, Legal Momentum is the nation's oldest legal defense and education fund dedicated to advancing the rights of women and girls.