Restructured Regions and Families: The Feminization of Poverty in the U.S.

John Paul Jones, Janet E. Kodras

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Scopus citations


We examine the geographic dimensions of the feminization of poverty in the U.S. from 1970-80. County-level maps of growth in female-headed family poverty show strongest concentration in the Northeast and North Central regions. Three explanations for these variations are presented: the breakdown of the traditional nuclear family, changes in welfare programs, and the status of women's work. The last is integrated into a broader thesis focusing on sectoral and spatial economic restructuring. We estimate dynamic regression models of growth in poverty among black and white female-headed families, using county-level data, for the entire U.S. and stratified by census region. The results confirm the importance of female-headed family formation across all region and race subfiles. Welfare program changes operate at the national level, but not in accordance with expectations derived from the conservative perspective. The regional restructuring thesis is also supported: concentration of women's employment in manufacturing is associated with declining poverty in Northeastern and North Central counties, while growth in service occupations is found to increase poverty in the South and West. The conclusion argues for state intervention to support female-headed families and to improve the status of women's work.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)163-183
Number of pages21
JournalAnnals of the Association of American Geographers
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1990


  • Aid to Families with Dependent Children
  • deindustrialization
  • feminization of poverty
  • poverty
  • regional economic restructuring
  • service economy
  • the family
  • welfare

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Earth-Surface Processes


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