This paper uses Census of Population and Current Population Survey data
to describe and analyze the sex-incidence of poverty in 1959, 1969, 1979,
and 1984 according to a fixed standard and a standard that changes with
national per capita real income. The popular view that there was a large
increase in the percent of adult poor who are women and that this trend has
accelerated in recent years is not supported by the data. There was
considerable feminization of poverty in the 1960s, but in the 1970s the sex
mix of poverty was relatively constant, and between 1979 and 1984 women's
share decreased. The trend in feminization was more severe for blacks than
for whites, primarily as a result of disparate trends in the 1970s.
Statistical decomposition of the changes shows that an increase in the
proportion of women in households without men was the principal source of
feminization of poverty and the principal reason why the trend was more
adverse for blacks than whites.
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