TIME women's issues

11 Surprising Facts About Women and Poverty From the Shriver Report

Plus a closer look at why some fathers are leaving mothers in the lurch

Maria Shriver’s annual report on Women in America came out Sunday, and the findings are bleak.

“These are not women trying to ‘have it all,'” Shriver wrote in the introduction to the report, which was co-sponsored by the Center for American Progress. “These are women who are already doing it all — working hard, providing, parenting, and care-giving. They’re doing it all, yet they and their families can’t prosper, and that’s weighing the U.S. economy down.”

Here’s what we learned from the in-depth report on how women are doing in post-recession America.

  1. 1 in 3 American women, 42 million women, plus 28 million children, either live in poverty or are right on the brink of it. (The report defines the “brink of poverty” as making $47,000 a year for a family of four.)
  2. Nearly two-thirds of minimum wage workers are women, and these workers often get zero paid sick days.
  3. Two-thirds of American women are either the primary or co-breadwinners of their families.
  4. The average woman is paid 77 cents for every dollar a man makes, and that figure is much lower for black and Latina women; African American women earn only 64 cents and Hispanic women only 55 cents for every dollar made by a white man.
  5. More than half of the babies born to moms who are under 30 are born to unmarried mothers, and most of them are white.
  6. 75% of unmarried mothers are under 30, and only 7% of have finished college. Single motherhood and lack of a college degree are two of the strongest indicators of poverty.
  7. 96% of single mothers say paid leave is the workplace reform that would help them the most.
  8. Even though women outnumber men in higher education, men still make more money than women who have the same level of educational achievement, from high school diplomas to advanced graduate degrees. And in 2011, men with bachelors’ degrees earned more than women with graduate degrees.
  9. 60% of low-income women say they believe even if they made all the right choices, “the economy doesn’t work for someone like me.”
  10. 76% of single mothers say if they could do it all over again, they would have gotten out of a bad relationship sooner.
  11. 27% of fathers and 40% of low-income fathers don’t live with their children.

The report also included a piece about the other side of the equation: men. For more on how low-income fathers think about fatherhood and their relationships with their children’s mothers, check out this piece by Kathryn Eden who interviewed over 100 low-income dads who don’t live with their kids for her 2013 book, Doing The Best I Can: Fatherhood In The Inner City. She found that since condoms are usually seen as disease-preventing safeguards rather than contraceptives, it’s become a sign of intimacy and trust to stop using condoms. And since pregnancy is sometimes considered the cornerstone of a serious relationship rather than the capstone, the young parents she interviewed didn’t have the same level of trust and stability as other couples who had been together longer.

The dads she spoke to were often ecstatic to have kids– they saw children as a clean slate. Many of them weren’t worried about jeopardizing their futures, because they didn’t feel they had a future to jeopardize. But their fragile relationships with the mothers quickly deteriorated under the stress of new parenthood, and fathers who were unable to provide for their kids sometimes tried to substitute emotional support for financial contribution. Mothers who were struggling to pay the bills resented the fathers’ financial inadequacies and often tried to find a new, richer guy to be their kids’ dad. This isolates the father and takes the child on a “father-go-round,” as the mother looks for a partner who can actually bring some resources. Isolated from their children, the fathers often start over again with a new girlfriend and end up repeating the cycle and perpetuating some of the dire situations outlined in the Shriver report.

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