Gender Equality

Living Edition
| Editors: Walter Leal Filho, Anabela Marisa Azul, Luciana Brandli, Amanda Lange Salvia, Tony Wall

Feminization of Poverty: Causes and Implications

  • MacKenzie A. ChristensenEmail author
Living reference work entry


The “feminization of poverty” refers to the phenomenon that women and children are disproportionately represented among the world’s poor compared to men.


According to the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (2000), “women are the world’s poor.” In almost all societies, women have higher poverty rates than men (Casper et al. 1994); in fact, among the 1.5 billion people living on 1 dollar or less a day, the majority are women and children (United Nations 2015). This persistent pattern of economic inequality led American sociologist Diana Pearce to coin the term the feminization of poverty, after documenting how, over time, women and children have become disproportionately represented among the population of low-income individuals in the United States and globally. Specifically, Pearce found that in the United States, two-thirds of the poor over age 16 were women (Pearce 1978). By 1983, nearly one-half of all poor families were female-headed...

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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.SociologyUniversity of CaliforniaIrvineUSA

Section editors and affiliations

  • Melissa Haeffner
    • 1
  1. 1.Environmental Science and ManagementPortland State UniversityPortlandUSA