News & Events > Becky Hallowell Testimony on Status of Women
Remarks by Becky Hallowell, Advisory Board, The Women’s Fund of Essex County
Good evening Commissioners. My name is Becky Hallowell. I am a board member of The Women’s Fund of Essex County. We are a charitable organization under the umbrella of Essex County Community Foundation. The mission of The Women’s Fund is to promote local philanthropy and to raise funds and award grants to non-profits in Essex County that serve women and girls in need.
We are just finalizing an analysis of the 2010 American Community Survey released just last month by the US Census. I want to share with you some key findings in the hopes that these will help frame comments from tonight’s participants and help you in your mission to shape policy. While the findings may not come as a surprise, the hard numbers are compelling.
Our findings confirm that women and girls, who represent 52% of Essex County’s population, continue to bear a significantly disproportionate burden of poverty, workplace inequity, and other barriers to self-sufficiency and self-determination. Time does not permit a review of all factors so I will focus on women who are single heads of household (no husband present), what the Census Bureau calls “female householders.”
Poverty is particularly acute for female householders and their families and underlies many of the issues to be
discussed tonight. With 27% of Essex County’s children living in female householder homes, critical issues not only
challenge the well-being of these women, but impact the well-being and future of their children and the long-term
strength of the community.
Let me put this in perspective:
By every measure, female householders and their families have the lowest median income and the highest poverty levels of all family types.
- Over 1/5th (21%) of all Essex County families are headed by a female householder, and these numbers are increasing.
- 66% of female householders have 1 or more children.
- Only 38% of female householders own their own homes, 62% rent. This is the lowest percentage of home ownership among all family types. Not surprisingly, homeownership continues to decrease.
I’d like to conclude with a brief reality check. The federal poverty level for 2011, as defined by the Dept. of
- Median income for female householders is just over $36,000, two-thirds that of male householders and one-third of married couple families.
- Median income is even lower ($29,000) for female householders with children.
- 33% of female householders with children live below the poverty level. This is in sharp contrast to 13% of male householders and 3% of married couple families.
- Of these female householders,
- 45% who are Hispanic or Latino live in poverty
- 31% who are black or African American live in poverty
- 55% of female householder families that comprise two or more races live in poverty
- Not surprisingly, the rate of poverty increases significantly with the increase in number of children. 63% of female householders with 3-4 children live below the poverty level.
- Of the nearly 75,000 people in Essex County who now live below the poverty level, nearly half, 47%, live in female householder families.
Health & Human Services, is $18,530 for a family of three. (The poverty level varies depending on the number of
children but the levels are the same across the country). Here, in Essex County, our cost of living is conservatively
measured at 21% higher than the national average. Given this, it is fair to conclude that the actual number of
women and their children living in poverty and challenged to meet the basic necessities is effectively much
higher than even these numbers suggest.
As a recommendation, these concentrated numbers suggest that a strategic focus on female householders and
their families can be a highly effective and efficient approach to target much of poverty and its issues.
Thank you. We appreciate the work you do and the opportunity to highlight these issues tonight.