4 Yale J.L. & Feminism 73 (1991-1992)
The Feminization of Poverty: An Issue for the 90's

handle is hein.journals/yjfem4 and id is 79 raw text is: The Feminization of Poverty:

An Issue for the 90's
Audrey Rowet
When I was asked to present at this conference, I had to think about it. As
a practitioner, I work day in and day out thinking about issues of poverty from
the city, state and national perspectives. Sometimes, in this work, I have found
myself so consumed by the reality of deciding day-to-day policy and operating
our programs, and so caught up in thinking through how to be more effective
in how we address these problems, that I wondered whether I had the time or
the energy to step back and share with you some issues that I think are very
important. However, I must admit that taking the time to stop and think about
these issues in preparation for coming here, and going through some of the
research that is being done, and talking to some old friends who do poverty
research was very, very helpful, and will help me when I take over the
Department of Income Maintenance next week.
As we look at the issues for the 90's, and particularly as we look at the
agenda feminists need to be involved in, the feminization of poverty has to
move from an issue that we think about and pay lip service to, to one that we
are much more actively trying to understand and to address. The trend toward
the feminization of poverty is real, and must be analyzed critically if it is to
be reversed.
During the past decade, foundations and federal, state and city governments
have focused a lot of attention on the increase in poverty, particularly the
increase among woman-maintained households. (I prefer that term to female
heads of households.) Researchers have coined the phrase feminization of
poverty to describe this trend. Diana Pearce, a feminist researcher who is
now the director of the Women in Poverty Center in Washington, D.C., first
introduced that concept in 1978,' based on her research, which clearly
demonstrated a correlation between gender and poverty and the importance of
gender in understanding poverty.2
I think in order to talk about poverty, we should start by talking about how
we measure poverty. The Census Bureau's way of measuring poverty, as I'm
t Audrey Rowe is the Commissioner of Income Maintenance for the State of Connecticut and
was formerly the Human Resources Administrator for the City of New Haven. This piece was
originally presented at the Conference, Feminism in the 90s: Bridging the Gap Between Theory and
1. Diana M. Pearce, The Feminization of Poverty: Women, Work, and Welfare, 11 URB. & SOC.
CHANGE REV. 28 (1978).
2. Id.

Copyright 0 1991 by the Yale Journal of Law and Feminism

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