Female Chicagoans 21% more likely to be impoverished than males

Female Chicagoans 21% more likely to be impoverished than males

The male-female poverty gap is higher in Chicago than in other cities.

Women are more likely than men to live in poverty in the U.S., but those gaps are even wider in Chicago: nearly 254,000 women suffer through poverty every day.

That makes women 21% more likely to be impoverished than men. Worse, the poverty rates for both males and females in Chicago are higher than for their counterparts in other U.S. cities.

The female poverty rate in Chicago is 18.8% versus 17.2% in the average American city, while the poverty rate of males is 15.5% in Chicago compared to 14.5% in the typical American city.

As a result of disproportionately higher poverty rates among females, nearly 254,000 (56%) of the more than 450,000 Chicagoans living in poverty are female, despite females representing only 51.6% of the total population.

These differences are likely attributable to discrepancies in labor force participation between men and women, as well as extremely high poverty rates among single mothers (27.1%). One positive development is in recent years women have far outpaced men in educational attainment, which likely serves to combat this disparity.

Research shows education improves lifetime earnings and median earnings improve with every level of education completed. Education also makes major differences in poverty rates, with each higher level of educational attainment being associated with lower instances of poverty. The likelihood of employment is also associated with increased educational attainment.

This is particularly important because data from the U.S. Census Bureau shows employment status is the single-most important factor impacting the poverty rate. Full-time employees in Chicago not only face lower poverty rates than Americans in other large cities, but securing full-time, year-round employment virtually eliminates the odds of being in poverty.

To reduce these gaps, public policy should be focused on ways to reduce the barriers keeping women out of the labor market.  Evidence suggests anti-poverty programs that incentivize work have been effective in increasing employment and raising incomes to promote upward mobility.

Future poverty alleviation solutions should focus on better employment outcomes for capable individuals. Reducing barriers to entry into the labor force, removing cumbersome regulations, improving the quality of education and fostering an environment in which employees, employers and communities can flourish all present opportunities for public policy solutions that can reduce poverty and improve the lives of Chicagoans – regardless of their income status.

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