Thursday, January 16, 2014

Women and poverty

Courtesy of Sojourners Magazine at
 It's noteworthy when a religious leader of any stripe openly supports the empowerment of women, but Jim Wallis, the editor of Sojourners Magazine, has never feared speaking out for justice for all people. The continued impoverishment of the female population in America is on Jim's mind a lot lately:

Watching the news cycle for the past week or so, I have been pleasantly surprised at how much the issue of poverty is being discussed. There have been many analyses of the successes and failures of the War on Poverty, the 50th anniversary of which we marked last week. But there is one report that has particularly fascinated me -- and many others -- as it describes how women have been struggling the most against poverty in the United States. In partnership with the Center for American Progress, this year's Shriver Report: A Woman's Nation Pushes Back from the Brink examines the problem of poverty as it pertains to women and proposes solutions to eradicate it.

Although those of us who have lived and worked in low-income neighborhoods have witnessed firsthand how poverty affects women and their children, seeing the numbers laid out is still overwhelming. Two-thirds of minimum wage workers in the country are women. Forty percent of families with children 18 or under have women as either a sole or primary breadwinner. And despite the gains that women have made in the workplace, the median earnings of women working full time are only 77 percent of what the median earnings are for men in similar roles. In Maria Shriver's essay from the report, "A Woman's Nation Pushes Back from the Brink: Powerful and Powerless," she writes, "[m]any of these women feel they are just a single incident -- one broken bone, one broken-down car, one missed paycheck -- away from the brink."

These statistics are not just fodder for ideological debates. They reveal our priorities and values as a nation. And it will take both a spiritual and social movement to change national direction and policy.

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