A 21st Century Journalism Project

Pink Collar Poverty

In Defining The Problem on March 1, 2012 at 1:43 am


Unemployment in America has been at a record high and as of February, 2012, sits at 8.3 percent.  Despite strong labor markets, millions of hard-working, employed Americans are still living in poverty.

Women make up the greatest magnitude of the working poor population in America.  The term “working poor” refers to living at or below the poverty line.  The U.S. Census Bureau established the 2012-2013 poverty line for a family of 4 at $23,050 annually, which translates to an income of $1,921 per month.

92 percent of single parents are women

56 percent of the working poor in this country are females.  Factor in variables that working poor females face such as job discrimination, single parenting, finding a service to watch their children while the parent is at work, taking care of “second shift” responsibilities at home, and this does not leave females with a great allowance.

The magnitude of working poor women in America who are living at or below the poverty line, is a rising problem.


It is no wonder why women struggle more than men to make ends meet.  Discrimination, not lack of training or education, is largely to blame for the wage gap between sexes.

Traditionally, women hold lower paying, more unstable jobs, and lack full year employment.  While the hourly wage for women without children is 90 percent of a man’s, the comparable figure for a working single woman with children is closer to 70 percent.  Women who work full time earn only 77 percent of what men make, (a 22 percent gap) in average annual wages and are often forced into poverty at much higher rates than men.

Women are often tracked into pink-collar jobs that typically pay less than occupations in male-dominated industries.  Single working women are directed towards jobs in the market of teaching, child care, cleaning, waitressing, caregiver, etc which typically pay less than jobs in male-dominated industries.

Not only do women make up the majority of the working poor, but most of these poverty-stricken women are likely to be mothers, (in some cases single) who have children to care  for as well.

Cost of Child Care

The cost of raising a child from birth to age 18 depends on where you live and how many hours your child spends in day care.

The average cost of daycare, in the United States is $11,666 per year ($972 a month).  A family of 4 living below the poverty line make an average of $22,350 annually.  Day care alone requires up to 52 percent of that family’s annual salary.

The annual cost of child care now exceeds the cost of sending a child to college in several states.  In most working poor cases, a parent must drop their child off at a day care center to go to work, in order to afford the day care.  This cycle can bare a heavy burden on the working poor parent.

Projected annual amounts pink collar workers will spend on child care

The Single (Working) Mother

Although married couples are still the most common family type, their number is declining rapidly as more and more households are becoming single parent.  92 percent of single parents in the United States are women, and 40 percent of women who head families are now living in poverty.

Women are more likely to take on the economic costs, as well as accept full responsibility for raising a child.  80 percent of single mothers are employed, 50 percent  of them work full-time, and 30 percent are working part-time.  One paycheck might not be enough, considering 27 percent of single mothers live in poverty with their children.

There are single working mothers who get reliable, substantial child-support payments from their child’s fathers.  Forty-five percent of all female single parents hold down more than one job, and are still scraping to make ends meet.

In today’s society, the single working mother experiences the highest rate of unemployment.  She also receives the lowest rate of pay regardless of her education.

When a woman is single, poor, and left with the responsibility to raise children all on her own, it can become difficult to keep up with everyday chores and responsibilities around the house.

The Second Shift

Many mothers, married or single, experience “the second shift”.  The second shift refers to the second part of a working mother’s day when she comes home from her job outside of the home, to her job inside the home.

In the case of a single working mother, not only does she have to worry about finding herself a job and keeping it in order to support her children, she must also keep up with her responsibilities around the house.

On average, women spend an additional 31- 42 hours per week in unpaid work and chores in their own homes – double that number if the working single mother has no family support, which in many cases, she does not.

A mother’s job description, single or not, might include chauffeur, dietician, maid, homework assistant, doctor, dentist – the list is infinite.

Balancing work and family roles has become a key personal and family issue for Americans.  Employers and family studies specialists find that changing American family structure is a major source of stress in both the work place and the home.  This is, however, unavoidable when the woman is left with no choice but to work both outside and inside the home.

What the Future Holds

Women in the United States are experiencing the highest poverty rates in 17 years.  The percentage of women living at or below the poverty line rose to 14.5 percent last year, up from 13.9 percent in 2009.  This means more than 17 million women are currently living at or below the poverty line.

Females living in poverty are subject to face a variety of obstacles such as second shift responsibilities, single parenting, and the cost of child care.  Job discrimination can also play a role in women’s poverty.

The magnitude of the female working poor in America who are living at or below the poverty line is at a record high.  Educating women to address the issues that continue the cycle of poverty  is a tool that can help females in this country go from pink collar poverty, to pink collar prosperity.

  1. […] children alone, started out in committed relationships, and never expected to be single parents.  84% of single parents are in America, are women.  Andrea Rose had been married for 2 years before she […]

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