Poverty and the Gender Gap: Will the Candidates Address It?

Despite a heavy focus by the presidential campaigns on social safety net programs and “entitlementsm” there’s been very little focus on what poverty in this country really looks like, let alone any serious suggestions as to how to address the economic and political structures that make climbing out of poverty increasingly impossible.

As Tim Casey and Lisalyn Jacobs at The Nation report, to do so would require a radical shift in both rhetoric and policy. To begin with, we’d have to recognize that poverty is in many ways a women’s issue and that our current system for administering assistance is exacerbating this problem. Instead of a nationally mandated minimum benefit level for cash assistance — what we traditionally consider ‘welfare’ — states have the discretion to set those levels, which means 50 different systems for setting temporary cash assistance.

The United States also lacks any kind of real subsidized childcare compared to other industrialized nations. With more women than men in low-wage jobs, a patchwork of state cash assistance for those most in need, and little-to-no childcare support for mothers who need to work, it becomes clearer how the system is stacked to keep women in poverty, especially single mothers.

With these structural challenges visible, it becomes even more apparent how inadequate both Republicans and Democrats have been in addressing systemic poverty in this country. The Republican answer has been to demonize single mothers while working to make their situation more desperate by way of cuts to food stamps, Medicaid and family planning services. The Democrats have only been able to play defense and have largely failed at offering any sweeping policy changes, absent health care reform and immigration reform, that could begin to chip away at these challenges.

The authors of The Nation piece pose some general, but pointed questions to both Mitt Romney and President Obama they’d like to see answered in the debate, such as:

1) Poverty rates are 30 percent higher for women than men. What would you do to reduce the gender poverty gap?

2) Despite their above average employment rates compared to single mothers in other high income countries, single mothers in the US have higher poverty rates. What would you do to reduce poverty for single mothers and their children?

3) One-fifth of US children are poor. Do you agree that national policy should assure an above-poverty income to all children whose parents are willing to work?

What questions for addressing poverty in this country do you have for the candidates? What policy changes would you like to see in place to change these dynamics and have the United States emerge as a leader in the fight against poverty?

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Over One Million US Kids Are Homeless

Photo from martinak15 via flickr.


Grace Adams
Grace Adams5 years ago

For a Social Darwinist, poverty really ought to be a capital crime, with the penalty strictly enforced, so as the weed those poverty genes ought of the gene pool. Anybody who can't manage to land a job and earn enough to support him or herself and any dependents is obviously bad breeding stock and should be removed from the gene pool.

For a liberal, a combination of a community service employment program with enough jobs to provide a job for anyone willing to work plus enough Earned Income Credit to make up the difference between the minimum wage for the hours provide by the community service employment program and the current official poverty level for household size plus Social Security and Supplemental Security Income enough to again provide at least the current official poverty level income would be really great,

Bill Eagle
Bill Eagle5 years ago

President Johnson eliminated much of the poverty in the USA. President Reagan put it back and the numbers have increased from that time on.

Do we really want America to have a lot of poor people?

Mary B.
Mary B5 years ago

If you want to end poverty, the solution is simple. You give money to the poor people to spend on what ever they need .You DO NOT give money to the already wealthy.Then you butt out and stop thinking you can judge who 'deserves' it, or worry about if they're spending it on something you think they shouldn't.
The Social Safety net needs to be a solid base line of human rights upon which to build the culture, not a net to catch those who have no jobs because businesses can't provide enough liveing wage jobs and churches can't provide enough real help to make much difference.Come into the 21st century for christs sake! Stop debateing the same old bla bla bla..
We are inter-dependant, so give up this illusion that anyone will ever be not dependant, either on welfare or a paycheck. Do not confuse taking responsibility for your deliberate choices with being independent.And do not confuse deliberate choices with choices made because you can see no other way from your current position.

Danuta Watola
Danuta W5 years ago

Thanks for posting.

Winn Adams
Winn A5 years ago

I hope they will in the next debate.

a             y m.
g d c5 years ago


janice b.
jan b5 years ago

Storek-----a definition FYI -- -No one part of government dominates the other. The Constitution provides checks and balances among the three branches of the federal government. Its authors our founders expected the greater power to lie with Congress.
Legislative Leader: The President (Obama) influences the development and passage of laws but his support does not guarantee that a law will be instated. Congress has authority over financial and budgetary policy through the enumerated power to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises, to pay the debts and provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States.
So, it's congress STUPID and we must elect a congress that will support Obama.

janice b.
jan b5 years ago

58% of women hold low-pay but NECESSARY jobs are totally unprepared for retirement. 1 of 4 depend on SS for 90% of their -income living in or near poverty. I don't know what DC is thinking when they expect to adopt the republican plan to cut senior benefits as they age when their expenses will be going up too. Then as a final boot in the rear they'll make women work as clerks, waitresses, in manufacturing etc til they are 70 whether they are still healthy or not. Just because people are living longer due to better medicine it doesn't mean they are more physically fit like they were even 10 years ago. We need to FIGHT DC about this....

Nils Lunde
PlsNoMessage se5 years ago

One can always hope.......

Dawn C.

There are tax breaks for those with dependent children already. Is it too much to hear the tea party(?) protests in behalf of the childless, for whatever reason? It is possible increased assistance could encourage irresponsible parenting and increase dependency. But still, there is a need for more assistance for those in need. When on state welfare you cannot pay for cleaning supplies or books for your children. You are at the mercy of others and can easily lose your children to anyone who can provide what you cannot. How many parents control and guide their children by the pursestrings, for example?