People Facing Barriers, SSI

Poverty Data Shows Why Social Security Matters to Women and People of Color

December 7, 2023 • By and

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Last Updated: December 7, 2023

Woman reviewing documentsIn September, the U.S. Census Bureau released new poverty data showing a historic increase in poverty rates in 2022 as measured by the Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM), which takes into account the value of noncash public benefits. The surge in poverty rates reflects the expiration of pandemic relief – like stimulus payments, expanded refundable tax credits, and expanded Unemployment Insurance.

Unfortunately, as history has taught us, the impacts of poverty are felt most strongly by the most marginalized. For example:

  • SPM poverty rates for women and girls increased from 7.9% in 2021 to 12.8% in 2022.
  • One in nine adult women lived in poverty as measured by the Census Bureau’s official poverty measure (OPM).
  • The official poverty rates for women of color were even worse: 16.6% of Black women and 16.8% of Latina women were in poverty last year as compared to 7.3% of white, non-Hispanic men.
  • Women made up six in ten seniors who lived in poverty last year, with the official poverty rate for senior women remaining high at 11.2%.

The systemic inequities and underinvestment that women experience throughout their lives puts them at greater risk of living in poverty: The cumulative impacts of the gender wage gap, overrepresentation in low-paid jobs, caregiving responsibilities, and more have put women, especially women of color, at an economic disadvantage. Gender injustice compounded by structural racism means the risk of economic insecurity is much higher for older women of color.

Scary, we know.

But it doesn’t have to be this way: The solutions are right in front of us.

While the increase in SPM poverty between 2021 and 2022 is discouraging, the poverty data is a reminder that public benefits and supports can make a difference. In addition to showing the impact of pandemic relief, the SPM makes it abundantly clear how vital social insurance programs like Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) are in combating poverty.

Social Security continued to be the most important anti-poverty program in 2022, moving 28.9 million people out of SPM poverty. SSI also lifted 2.5 million people out of SPM poverty in 2022.

Social Security and SSI are especially critical for older women, people of color, people with disabilities, and people with low incomes, because they serve as the foundation for their economic security, helping to make up for the fact that society has failed to effectively combat systemic discrimination and invest in their well-being.

The bottom line is that Social Security and other policies can alleviate poverty in this country and make a real difference for the economic security of women and people of color.

The National Women’s Law Center is a non-profit organization that fights for gender justice—in the courts, in public policy, and in our society—working across the issues that are central to the lives of women and girls.

Our posting of this blog does not constitute an endorsement or recommendation of any non-Social Security organization, author, or webpages.

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  1. Erica t.

    Please help Hi my name is Erica thieler and I am disabled and about to be homeless for the second time due to my landlord selling my home. I have been on the waiting list for a voucher for 4 years and I have exhausted every resource available and no one will help me. I have worked 27 years in the same industry and fell 37 ft and broke my back pelvis and ribs so I’m forced to live on ssdi which is 600 a month which is inhumane to me. I keep seeing everyone getting housing and no one will even return an email. I keep hearing talk to your PHA but my pha has yelled at me BC I called and checked periodically for emergency vouchers and he basically said I will never get housing so I’m scared to call him. I’m desperate I need another surgery and my government won’t help me. If you can help me please let me know asap I’m in Prairieville Gonzales baton rouge area Erica thieler Please text or call my email works when it wants to

  2. Tammy M.

    Hi my name is Tammy Mathis disabled Rn and divorced. I have been on my own since I was 14 and never had to ask for help. I was raised on my grandfather farm.I have always known what hard work was. And my grandfather tought me how to enjoy life and keep pushing on. And how I had so many blessings that most people didn’t have. He was a self made millionaire but a lot of people didn’t know that but they new he was able to let them borrow money. And he told me I was like him blessed by God but people would always say things about me and try to break that spirited that shine in my heart. He said it was my choice how I let things affect me and words from other people could really not hurt me. And I believe every word he told me.
    I always made good grades until my teacher also a couch seen his chance to get what he wanted. My parents where going through a divorce and I still continue to go to school make the grades and be captain of my cheerleading squad. Even though there was no one in the stands anymore cheerleading me on. And I would have to get rides home. MY teacher that I trusted was a predator and offered me a ride home. And changed my life again I was rapped for a year in 7 th grade. I knew things like this couldn’t get out and as I said I was trained no matter what WAS going on to put on my smile face in public and never tell anyone about what I was really going through are feeling inside. And I was very successful at blocking it in my mind.
    I have been married twice and picked men that abuse me in one way are another.
    I was given to health beautiful babies and I gave everything I had to give to them. And tryed to protect them from the abuse in our home and thought I had. I know now I should of not stayed. It’s cost me more than I would ever know.
    There was abuse in my home and always has been.
    I live on my own and most of my family that loved me and showed me how to treat others and work hard for what you need and pay for the things you enjoy having. Play hard, come together on the holidays and spend what you have to so everyone can just enjoy those special times of the year. I have always done that for my kids .
    My children and grandchildren still come and enjoy those times with me. I have two children and 5 grandchildren that I love with all my heart.
    But I have let people in my life belittle me and lye about me because I was raised to keep my mouth shut put that smile on and make everyone else happy . I thought that I was supposed to do that it’s was my job. But I was born with joy and determination in my soul and no one has ever taken that from me.
    I had a wonderful career travel over the United states and worked in the health field from floor nurse up to ICU MANAGEMENT and loved desaturate rescue.
    But my own children don’t know what a successful career I have had and my many talents. Are people in my own home town.
    I have always had to battle sickness for many years not knowing what was wrong with me. And been through so much heart ache and told by so many Doctors that nothing was wrong with me. After they couldn’t prescribe narcotic to me any more. Because they broke the rules and couldn’t do it for any patient anymore.
    Well I’m determined and I finally got my diagnosis I have a rare disease called heratary angioedema type 3. Its the only thing in my life that I have battle that just knocks me off my feet and makes me bedridden and trapped in a toucher chamber of darkness and unbearable pain.
    It has taken my mom ,care, turned people that I love against me because they now believe I’m just a drug seeker. I stopped going to my home town doctor and paying all those bills for testing that always come back normal. Because my disease doesn’t have a test yet type 1 and 2 does and some day my type will to.
    I’m just getting over my last bad attack which I tried to get help for the pain at my home town hospital after 8 weeks of dealing with it at home the way I have had to resort to. And I finally gave in and went to the hospital to just get enough help to make it barely bearable. And again I was neglected and when I was in so much pain crying out loud I was told by a nurse to quit down I was disturbing everyone after putting on my call light for over a hour after that I lost track of time. My blood pressure was 226 over 136 and was told that was not a treatable blood pressure. I finally call my daughter and she came and I finally got a 1 time dose of pain medication. And I didn’t have enough strength to get out of that unperphyshal so called hospital so I did what I had to. And I was able to call my daughter and I left AMA .Even thought they where still trying to get me to except what they were telling me every thought I had educated myself in prodocals and persecutes and when they keep telling me that I didn’t have a blood that they considered treatable.
    I have tried to apply for programs that suppose to be for people like me disabled that have to live on disability because of a disabling disease that takes over their lives before it time to retire. And guess what I make 30.00 are 200.00 over the guide lines. And treated by the people in those jobs of government that I payed into oh I for got I always know politics. And even made it to the governor of Kentucky ball when he celebrated his win. Not the governor know. I have rub shoulders with millanairs and help people living on the streets and never disrespected anyone.
    But the people that are in my home town disrespect me and people like me and don’t do anything to help them get the benefits they deserve. And even the people in the health field that falsified my chart and broke HIPPA violation by telling my granddaughters that I gave her a fit and every one else and didn’t know how to act in public. I still believed in our lays and people in government jobs that work for disabled people. I reported to them about the l neglect and abuse at the hospital they don’t call back are say they can’t help and give me a phone number to call usly to a fax machine.
    I had pretty much just excited things because I came so close to death this time and got death fog. And was begging God to take me out the chamber of pain that my body had become. I was just going to let everything go.
    But I’m getting back on my feet once more my be my last time I don’t know but people can do what they want to me but not my babies and the people that can’t defend themselves.
    And I don’t have to eat much know anyway so I don’t need to spend money on that much food.
    I have lived on ensure every since my last attack but I can’t even afford those and I make to much to get them payed for. While my the people next door that get to live in a three bedroom apartment subdivision by our government that has drug charges and sells his medicine and don’t pay his bills and get everything for almost free feeds his dogs stake and has a nurse almost every day that walks around sometimes with out anything. And the ones of us that can’t go out at night because of drug activity. I missed my infusion this week because I no longer have a nurse and no one can get me one.
    Well I got educated in my own mental health issues and I found out I don’t have to keep my mouth shut anymore.
    Where I have to live is continuing to get worse I just found out that the person I have loved that is mentally delayed had to buy her own water heater because she was told by our last manager they didn’t have any money to fix it. We have reported this to people but we just keep getting people with drug charges and I was told felons as managers but we haven’t had one in over a month. They people that own this place fired the manager are maintenance man at the same time.
    Well if anyone knows where I can get some help please let me know.
    Because with all my gifts I also have fire in my soul to and that’s what has gave me the will to get out of that bed one more time.
    My email is and I already know my writing skills are poor I’m still getting over brain fog
    And I have been warned to back off but I been told all my life I can’t do that
    And I have done everything I wanted to even turned 40 in Hawaii and made it to Jamaica
    So please keep telling me I can’t do that and I’m just a drug seeker
    And my disease is not really
    And just see what that does for me

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