Poverty is defined as the state of one who lacks a usual or socially acceptable amount of money or material possessions. The federal government considers poverty as the minimal level of income necessary for individuals" and families" basic subsistence not to include noncash benefits such as food stamps. Regardless of how poverty is measured or defined families headed by single women with children are the poorest of all major demographic groups. The number of poor mother-only families increased from 1.5 million in 1959 to over 4 million in 1993. (Rodgers, 1996) The term the feminization of poverty is used to describe the likelihood that female heads of households will be poor. In this paper I will discuss the increasing trend of poor woman, some of the reasons why they become poor and the situations and reality they have to face.
Families of single mothers and their dependent children are extremely vulnerable economically, educationally, and socially and suffer extremely high rates of poverty. In 1993 over 46 percent of all families with children headed by a single woman lived in poverty. (Rodgers, 1996) According to the official government definition of poverty, approximately one out of every two mother-only families is poor. Mother-only families have had substantially higher poverty rates than other groups for the past fifteen years, and the gap between them and the next poorest groups (the disabled and the aged) has increased because the poverty rates of the disabled and the aged have declined over the period. (Garfinkel and McLanahan, 1986) Because of the huge increase in mother-only families along with their high but rather steady rate of poverty this type of family is the major poverty group in America.
Some of the reasons why mother-only families are so poor would be the low earnings capacity of single mothers, the lack of child support from noncustodial fathers, and the meager benefits provided by public assistance programs.