This paper reviews trends in “feminization” and “juvenilization” of poverty showing that the relative risks of poverty increased for women in the 1970s but decreased for working-age women in the early 1980s. Relative risks of poverty increased for children between the 1970s and 1990s particularly in comparison with the elderly. Four factors affect these trends: First, the increase in women's employment and decline in the gender wage gap enhanced the likelihood that women remained above the poverty level. Second, the decline in manufacturing employment and “family wage” jobs for men increased the likelihood that less-educated men (and their families) fell into poverty in the early 1980s. These two factors combined to halt the feminization of poverty among the working-age population. At the same time, a third trend, the increase in “nonmarriage,” elevated the proportion of single parents who were young, never-married mothers and complicated the collection of child support from nonresident fathers. This tended to concentrate poverty in mother-child families. Finally, public transfers of income, especially Social Security, were far more effective in alleviating poverty among the elderly than among children, a factor dramatically increasing the “juvenilization” of poverty after 1970.

Keyword(s): childrenfamilygenderinequalitypoverty

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  • Article Type: Review Article
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