Poverty Among Women of Color
and White Women
Lisa Catanzarite and Vilma Ortiz★
WOMEN'S POVERTY IS AT THE CENTER OF THE CURRENT welfare reform debate. women and their children do make up an increasing proportion of the population of poor people in the United States,and female-headed families are on the rise. The ample attention is also because of suspicion among some public policymakers that the welfare system itself may have exacerbated these trends (and this emphasis is consistent with the increasing popularity of "less government"). As a result, much of the discussion of policy innovations focuses on getting poor mothers off Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) and into the labor force. Additionally, a great deal of rhetoric has been devoted to "family values." Poor women (and perhaps women in general) are targeted with messages meant to reform behavior deemed inappropriate. The word is: Get married or stay married; moreover, if you aren't married or won't stay married, then do not have children.
Female poverty, however, is complex. African-American and Latina women are more likely to be poor than are white women, and are likely to stay poor for longer stretches of time than are whites. Poverty policy will thus have a potentially greater effect on minority women and their children than on white women. In order to____________________