Spotlight: Women and Poverty

Women in Poverty

Women account for 57% of County residents living in poverty in 2017 (slightly above the national share of 55% and the state share of 56%), according to the most recent Census American Community Survey. 7.7% of County women and girls live in poverty, compared to 5.3% of County men and boys.
The number of women living in poverty increased by 66% over the decade between 2007 and 2017 -- or by over 16,500 residents. While the number of men living in poverty also increased at a high rate, women accounted for nearly 60% of the overall increase in poverty over the past decade. The County nevertheless continues to benefit from a low poverty rate by national standards, with a poverty rate that is almost half the national average.
County poverty rates show sharp disparities by race and ethnicity. For instance, 13.7% of Hispanic women in Montgomery County live in poverty, compared to 4.2% of White Non-Hispanic women, based on the most recent 5 year estimates from the American Community Survey (2012-2016), which are used in favor of the 1 year estimates used above to reduce margin of error when comparing smaller groups. Hispanic and Black or African American women make up a combined 59% of County women living in poverty.
Poverty Rate by Race and Ethnicity
Distribution of Women in Poverty by Race and Ethnicity
Women as Share of Residents in Poverty by Age

Women make up a rapidly growing share of County residents in poverty between the ages of 18 and 35 -- i.e. during the primary childbearing years. It spikes again in older years, in part because women make up a larger share of residents overall in the oldest age bracket due to longer lifespans, widowhood, and more limited fixed incomes.

Differences by Family Type

Single mother households have far higher rates of poverty than households headed by a married couple. The poverty rate is particularly high among single mothers with a child under the age of 5, with 30% of such families living in poverty. Of note, the number of poor single-mother households fell slightly between 2006 and 2016 despite the overall increase in poverty over this time.
Families consisting of a female head of household without a husband present receive a median household income of $58,500 -- only 40% of the income of the median married-couple family. As a result, 54% of female headed households without a husband present live below the self-sufficiency standard, compared to only 21% of married couple households.

Public Assistance

Families headed by a woman without a husband present are five times as likely as married couples to receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits (formerly known as food stamps). In fact, while there are five times as many married couple families in the County, families headed by a woman without a husband actually account for more SNAP recipients (8,400 vs. 7,200).

In addition to SNAP/Food stamps, over 30,000 County residents utilize the Women, Infant, and Children (WIC) nutrition and healthcare support program for pregnant and new mothers and their young children, based on Maryland Hunger Solutions statistics from 2014
Within the State of Maryland, 47,696 adults and children received Temporary Assistance for Needy Family (TANF), 398,000 households qualified for the Earned Income Tax Credit, 8,500 families received child care subsidies, 94,000 received federal rental assistance, 611,835 children were enrolled in Medicaid and CHIP, and 10,069 children participated in Head Start programs (data for these programs do not appear to be available at the County-level). Montgomery County offers 34 HeadStart classes throughout the County to 648 three- and four-year old children, of whom 60 are three-year olds.
Lastly, 6.8% of County women in 2017 did not have health insurance, compared to 7.5% of County men.


The County's chronic homelessness dashboard reports that women make up 35% of the County's homeless population, with a count of 139 residents. Black or African Americans make up 55% of the count. The highest prevalence among women is in the 50-64 and 35-39 age range, a trend that mirrors men. Women have notably lower rates of homelessness in the 25-34 age range relative to men. While historical data broken down by gender is not readily available, the Washington Metro Council of Government conducts an annual "Point-in-Time" survey that shows a decrease in overall homelessness counts, from 126 homeless residents per 100,000 in 2006 to 94 homeless residents per 100,000 in 2016.