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Poor Women in Rich Countries

The Feminization of Poverty Over the Life Course

Edited by Gertrude Schaffner Goldberg

Publication Date - 19 November 2009

ISBN: 9780195314304

352 pages
6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches

By identifying the social and economic policies that enable women to live independently, Poor Women in Rich Countries provides nothing less than a blueprint for abolishing women's poverty.


The first book to study women's poverty over the life course, this wide-ranging collection focuses on the economic condition of single mothers and single elderly women--while also considering partnered women and immigrants--in eight wealthy but diverse countries: Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

In a rich analysis of labor market and social welfare sectors, Gertrude Schaffner Goldberg and a team of outstanding international contributors conclude that both living-wage employment and government provision of adequate benefits and services are necessary if lone women are to achieve a socially acceptable living standard. Taken together, the chapters extend a feminist critique of welfare state theories and chart nations' disparate progress against poverty -- probing, for instance, how Sweden emerged a leader in the prevention of women's poverty while the United States continues to lag.

By identifying the social and economic policies that enable women to live independently, Poor Women in Rich Countries provides nothing less than a blueprint for abolishing women's poverty.


  • The first analysis of women's poverty over the life course
  • Extends feminist critiques of welfare state theories
  • Compares labor market forces and government policies across eight countries
  • Covers single mothers, elderly women, and immigrants
  • Predicts the future of feminized poverty in light of the study's findings

About the Author(s)

Gertrude Schaffner Goldberg, DSW, is Professor of Social Policy and Director, Ph.D. Program in Social Work, Adelphi University.


"This encyclopedic collection documents how the decline of marriage, markets, and the state in major industrialized countries around the world has ensured that poverty remains feminized." --Mimi Abramovitz, Bertha Capen Reynolds Professor of Social Policy, Hunter College School of Social Work and The Graduate Center, City University of New York

"Goldberg has assembled a superb group of country specialists who have written an important book for students and scholars interested in the topic of cross-national continuities and variations in the feminization of poverty in rich countries." --Mark Kesselman, Professor Emeritus, Department of Political Science, Columbia University

"This book is an invaluable resource for anyone interested in an in-depth analysis of the economic status and life chances of women in eight industrialized countries." --Marguerite G. Rosenthal, Professor Emerita, School of Social Work, Salem State College

"These distinguished authors paint a rich and detailed portrait of older women's poverty in eight diverse high-income countries. Their collective research is wide-ranging, drawing on several national and cross-national datasets to analyze the antecedents, patterns of variation, and consequences of poverty as experienced by women throughout the life course. This volume will be a valued resource for comparative sociologists, social workers, and social policy scholars concerned with gender disparities in economic wellbeing."--Janet Gornick Director, Luxembourg Income Study, Professor of Political Science and Sociology, Graduate Center, City University of New York

"This ambitious book is based on excellent scholarship. Each chapter is thorough and written by authors with expertise in analyzing social welfare data and the political and social trends that shape them... The book succeeds in providing data and largely bridging the gaps among data differences and different poverty measures among countries, and it contains rich, detailed discussions of the countries' political and social contexts." -- Jennifer R. Zelnick, Touro College Graduate School of Social Work, Journal of Sociology & Social Welfare

Table of Contents

    1. Revisiting the Feminization of Poverty in Cross-National Perspective, Gertrude Schaffner Goldberg

    2. Sweden: The Feminization of Poverty?, Diane Sainsbury and Ann Morissens

    3. Feminization of Poverty: The French Case, Claude Martin

    4. Germany: Deviating from the Male Breadwinner Norm, Ute Klammer

    5. The United Kingdom: The Feminization of Poverty?, Jane Millar

    6. Women's Poverty in Canada: Cross-Currents in an Ebbing Tide, Patricia Evans

    7. The Italian Case, Enrica Morlicchio and Elena Spinelli

    8. Feminization of Poverty in Japan: A Special Case?, Kimiko Kimoto and Kumiko Hagiwara

    9. Feminized Poverty in the United States: Any Surprises?, Gertrude Schaffner Goldberg

    10. Summary, Synthesis, and Conclusions, Part 1: The Poverty of Lone Women, Their Diversity, and Income Sources, Gertrude Schaffner Goldberg

    11. Summary, Synthesis and Conclusions, Part 2: Social and Economic Policies for Lone Women, Gertrude Schaffner Goldberg

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