Ruth Sidel’s Keeping Women and Children Last: America’s War on the Poor (1998) is not a book that can easily be swallowed without some serious reflection and, for some, verification. According to Sidel, the main cause of the persistence of poverty in the United States may…
know it,” which effectively withdrew critical support from women, particularly single mothers, and consequently the children they are committed to raise.
Shocking as her claims seem to be, Sidel’s facts appear to concur with official statistics by research institutes and policy studies by international organizations. Sidel presents trends and data from the 1970’s to the 1980’s. However, well, into the 1990s, the trends she wrote of continue to hold. In the following table are data compiled by the Levy Economics Institute of Bard College that shows women are worse off than men in both income and asset poverty.
It has also been reported that the proportion of the poor in female-headed households climbed from 1959 (17.8%) to 2005 (31.1%). The poverty rate for women-headed households is a much higher figure than other types of households. This trend has led to the development of a phenomenon termed “the feminization of poverty” by researchers. (Sawhill, 1996)
It was also Sidel’s contention that in the late 1970s and 1908s, the United States had the highest poverty rate among Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, and the United Kingdom. A more recent study dated 2003, the poverty rates and percentage of low-wage workers among several countries showed the same trend to persist, with the United States exhibiting the highest rates in both measures.
From the foregoing table, it is verified that in the 1990s, the United States continued to register the highest rate for poverty (10.7%) and low rage workers (25%) than the other six countries mentioned by Sidel, confirming her assertion that these are due to conditions prevalent in the United States that are not present or are present to a lesser degree in the other countries.
To say, however, that the persistence of poverty in the United States compared to other countries is due entirely to the plight of women and children is generalizing too much to the point of ignoring other issues. ...
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