3 Pages

Name an Issue and It Is Yours

Sometimes political influence is a bonus for those who can put a new name on a problem and make it stick. Many Americans seem to believe that the “poor are always with us” and that poverty is a product of 10 percent disability and 90 percent laziness. Although women and children have always been a majority of the poor it’s only been since 1978 that poverty has been defined as a women’s issue, a product of sex discrimination. The feminization of poverty names a real problem: Two of three adults living in poverty are women. Of families below the poverty line, half are headed by women. Women dominate in jobs paying minimum wage and receive the lowest social security pensions. By giving these dismal statistics a new name, women’s rights advocates of the 1980s made poverty their issue and added political resources to their demands for better pay, child care, and job training.