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POVERTY AND POLICY MATTERS: Almost one in five North Carolina women live in poverty

A report released last week by the North Carolina Budget and Tax Center showed that North Carolina’s poverty rate remains high at 17.9 percent, and that many communities are still struggling to recover from the Great Recession. In 2011, 19.2 percent of women lived in poverty, an increase from 16.1 percent in 2007.

Women’s poverty rates vary by geography. The preliminary findings of the 2012 Status of Women in North Carolina report released by the North Carolina Council for Women  found that in parts of rural North Carolina – such as Ashe, Avery, Mitchell and Yancey counties – 21 percent of women live at or below the federal poverty line compared to, for instance, 13 percent of women living in the Raleigh MSA.

Economic security remains elusive for many communities, yet a recent report by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research – which disaggregated survey results by gender -  showed that the Recession has increased women’s economic vulnerability even more than men’s.  As we have reported elsewhere, the persistence of the pay gap; difficulties in accessing affordable, quality child care; and the lack of realistic work-family policies are all factors in this story.

Women living in poverty is not a women’s issue. It is a lens into the long-term effects of persistent gender inequity. As the demographics of our workforce continue to change and more women become primary breadwinners or co-breadwinners, families depend more and more on women’s incomes. For the sake of North Carolina’s families and the economic recovery, policy makers must continue to invest in the public structures and policies that ensure that all of our working families are able to make ends meet.

We must #talkpoverty and develop the will to solve these problems.

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