Women in America: A Socio-Economic Statistical Portrait

The Council on Women and Girls, was created by an Executive Order signed by President Obama in 2009. Its mission is to promote women and girls’ specific needs when developing federal policies, programs and legislation. The council was inspired by former Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright’s views on the role of government regarding women,

In our government responsibilities regarding women [should]not the job of any one agency. It’s the job of all of them.”

The council recently published a telling report, Women in America (pdf), tracing the progress made by women in the United States based on five categories:

  • Families and Income
  • Education
  • Employment
  • Health
  • Crime

Below is a summary of the latest findings:


The Census Bureau is the primary source of the data (census.gov).

  • Women are marrying later and have fewer children than in the past.
  • A greater proportion of both women and men have never married, and women are giving birth to their first child at older ages.
  • Although more adult women live in married-couple families than in any other living arrangement, an ever-growing number of women are raising children without a spouse.
  • More women are remaining childless.
  • Women continue to outnumber men at older ages.
  • Women are more likely to live in poverty than are adult men.
  • Single-mother families face particularly high poverty rates, often because of the lower wages earned by women in these families.


Regarding the levels and trends in women’s educational attainment, school enrollment, and fields of study, the data below comes from the National Center for Education Statistics (nces.ed.gov) and the National Science Foundation (nsf.gov).

  • Younger women are more likely to graduate from college than are men and are more likely to hold a graduate school degree.
  • Higher percentages of women than men have at least a high school education.
  • Higher percentages of women than men participate in adult education.
  • Educational gains among women relative to men can be seen across racial and ethnic groups.
  • Despite these gains in graduation rates, girls score higher than boys on reading assessments, but lower on math assessments.
  • Female students are less well represented than men in science and technology-related fields, which typically lead to higher paying occupations.

Other reports that provide detailed information about this topic include:

Women, Minorities, and Persons with Disabilities in Science and Engineering

Below are some of the findings:

Degrees Earned



Undergraduate Enrollment


scientists and engineers

High Participation Field

academic employment


The Bureau of Labor Statistics is the main source of the data (bls.gov).

  • Workforce participation among men has declined, but women are still less likely to work in the paid labor force than are men.  When women do work, they are much more likely than men to work part-time.
  • Women continue to spend more of their time in household activities or caring for other family members; they also do more unpaid volunteer work than men.
  • Despite their gains in labor market experience and in education, women still earn less than men.
  • In part, this is because women and men work in different occupations, with women still concentrated in lower-paying and traditionally female occupations.
  • Because women earn less and because two-earner households have higher earnings, families headed by women have far less income than do married-couple families.


The data come primarily from the National Center for Health Statistics (cdc.gov/nchs).

  • Life expectancy has increased over time for both women and men; however, women continue to live longer than men.
  • Women are disproportionately more likely than men to be affected by mobility impairments, asthma, arthritis, or depression.
  • Women are less likely to be physically active and are more likely to be obese.
  • Women continue to have a lower incidence of heart disease than men and are less likely than men to suffer from diabetes.
  • Women generally use the health care system and preventive care more than men, but many women still do not receive recommended preventive care such as pap smears or flu vaccinations.
  • The share of both adult women and men without health insurance has increased over time. People with insurance are much more likely to have a doctor or other medical professional who provides regular care; one out of seven women have no usual source of health care.

Also visit the Health, United States, 2010 Report.


The data come primarily from the Bureau of Justice Statistics (bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov).

  • Women are less likely than men to be victims of crime.
  • The probability of being a victim of a violent crime (assault, robbery, or homicide) has declined among both men and women in the last two decades.
  • Attacks on women by their intimate partners have fallen since the passage of the Violence Against Women Act in 1994, although women are still much more likely to be victimized and injured by this type of violence than are men.
  • Females made up 70% of victims killed by an intimate partner in 2007.  Intimate partners were responsible for 3% of all violence against males and 23% of all violence against females in 2008.
  • Although rape is considered to be underreported, reported rape rates have declined over time.
  • The majority of rapes were committed by someone known to the victim, primarily an acquaintance.
  • Women are at far greater risk than men for stalking victimization.
  • Women are more likely to commit crimes now than in the past, although women who commit crimes are more likely to be arrested for nonviolent property crimes compared to male criminals whose crimes are more likely to involve violence.
  • During the past two decades, imprisonment rates have risen for both men and women, although the share of women in prison is still much lower.  Like their male counterparts, black and Hispanic women are much more likely to experience imprisonment than white women. Many imprisoned women have minor children.

According to the report’s findings, women have made great strides in education and labor force participation, but these have not yet translated into income equality. Unmarried and divorced women are the most likely to have responsibility for raising and supporting their children, and women are more likely to be in poverty than men. These economic inequities are greater for women of color. Women live longer than men but are more likely to suffer from obesity and depression. Women are not exercising enough, yet they are less likely than men to suffer from heart disease or diabetes. Many women do not receive preventative care, and one out of seven women age 18-64 has no usual source of health care. The share of women in that age range without health insurance has also increased. Women are less represented in the sciences and engineering fields.

In President Obama’s words, “the issues facing women today are not just women’s issues. When women make less than men for the same work, it hurts families who find themselves with less income, and working harder just to get by. When a job doesn’t offer family leave this also hurts men who want to help care for a new baby or an ailing parent. When there’s no affordable child care, this hurts children who wind up in second-rate care, or spending afternoons alone in front of the television set.”

There is still a lot of work to be done. What is the most immediate need we face?

What should be tackled next and why?



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