Female-Headed Families: Why Are They So Poor?

Levy Economics Institute Working Paper No. 45

31 Pages Posted: 17 Dec 1999  

Joan R. Rodgers

University of North Carolina (UNC) at Greensboro - Department of Economics; University of Wollongong; Bard College - The Levy Economics Institute

Date Written: March 1991

Abstract

Over the last few decades in the United States, the poverty rate for female-headed families (with no husband present) has been about three times the poverty rate for male-headed families (with no wife present) and about six times the poverty rate for married-couple families. This paper addresses the question of why, in general, female-headed families are so much poorer than other families. A decomposition of poverty rates and a set of probit models are used to identify the factors which determine the poverty rates for the three family types. The following control variables are found to be important determinants of poverty for all three family types: education of family members; age, race, disability, and unemployment of the family head; geographical location, size and age composition of the family. Both married-couple families and male-headed families are found to be less poor than female-headed families mainly because additional units of those control variables which reduce (increase) poverty have a larger (smaller) impact in the case of the former two family types than in the case of female-headed families. Of lesser importance is the fact that female-headed families, on average, have less (more) of those control variables which reduce (increase) poverty.

JEL Classification: J16

Suggested Citation

Rodgers, Joan R., Female-Headed Families: Why Are They So Poor? (March 1991). Levy Economics Institute Working Paper No. 45. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=176789 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.176789

Joan R. Rodgers (Contact Author)

University of North Carolina (UNC) at Greensboro - Department of Economics

Greensboro, NC 27402-6165
United States

University of Wollongong

Northfields Avenue
Wollongong, New South Wales 2522
Australia

Bard College - The Levy Economics Institute

Blithewood
Annandale-on-Hudson, NY 12504
United States

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