This month marks the 50th anniversary of the "War on Poverty" announced by President Lyndon B. Johnson in his State of the Union speech. Victory has not been declared.
Today, a half-century later, politicians are talking about the growth in income inequality, an increasingly uncomfortable reality in America. The income gap between the richest one percent of Americans and the other 90 percent is greater than in any year since 1928, just before the start of the Great Depression. The middle class is disappearing as incomes stagnate, contract or disappear.
Research tells us that many Americans will endure a period of poverty at some point in their lives, either as adults or as children. In fact, half of all Americans at some point during their childhood will reside in a household that depends on food stamps.
As this economic, political and social crisis is discussed, it is important recognize that the majority of America's poor are women with children.
In 2012, 14.5 percent of American women lived in poverty, compared to 11 percent of men. More than one in seven women (nearly 17.8 million) and more than one in five children (over 16 million) lived in poverty. More than half of all poor children lived in families headed by women. Poverty rates are even higher for African-American women (25.1 percent are living in poverty) and Hispanic women (24.8 percent).
One explanation for these sad statistics is persistent gender wage gap disparity. According to The Atlantic, in households headed by a single parent, the income gender gap is striking. In 2012, single fathers earned an average of $42,358 while single mothers earned $30,686. Women of color and women over the age of 65 earn even less.
Solutions are illusive. As the unemployment rate declines, more women and their families will be lifted out of poverty. But it is clear that a woman's ability find and keep a job is often dependent upon the flexibility created by family-friendly workplace policies. These range from flexible hours and daycare options to education options and skills training.
At Vision 2020, we seek economic and social equality for women by the year 2020, when we celebrate 100 years of women's voting rights. Let's work together to ensure economic security for all American women and the families they care for.
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