A contextual examination of the feminization of poverty

Janet E. Kodras, John Paul Jones

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Poverty is being increasingly 'feminized' as women and their children grow as a proportion of the poor population. Three competing explanations for poverty feminization have been advanced: the breakdown of the nuclear family, alterations in the welfare system, and restructuring of the U.S. economy. This study investigates whether these three mechanisms vary by urban-rural context. We first identify differences in the growth of poverty among Black and White female-headed families during the 1970s in metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas. Multivariate analyses are then employed to assess the relative importance of the hypothesized explanations. The breakdown of the nuclear family is the most important correlate for both races and across geographic settings in creating a pool of potentially poor women. Changes in local conditions of women's employment have an effect which is contingent upon race and setting. Expansion of the welfare system during the 1970s was found to assist White women in some areas but had no overall effect on the poverty of Black women.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)159-171
Number of pages13
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1991

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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