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Female-headed household here worse off, study finds

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By Bill Zlatos
Friday, Feb. 19, 2010

More than four of 10 families headed by single mothers in the Pittsburgh area live in poverty, according to a study released Thursday.

The Women and Girls Foundation of Southwest Pennsylvania, Downtown, commissioned the study to see how women in the Pittsburgh area and the state are faring during the recession versus men.

"The unemployment rate for single mothers has nearly doubled since 2007 in both the Pittsburgh and state level, and the unemployment rate for single mothers is two and a half times the unemployment rate for married men," said Heather Arnet, executive director.

The study, "The Female Face of Poverty and Economic Insecurity: The Impact of the Recession in Pennsylvania and Pittsburgh MSA," was performed by the Institute for Women's Policy Research in Washington.

The plight of female-headed households is worse here than the rest of the state, where one in three families headed by a woman lives in poverty.

The study also finds that women in the Pittsburgh area earn just 74.6 percent what men make and minority women make even less -- 64.2 percent for black females and 65.6 percent for Hispanic women. But women have made some progress, Arnet said. Five years ago, females in the region made only 70 cents on the dollar. She attributed the increase to greater awareness among corporate leaders and public officials and more training of women in the art of negotiation.

Arnet said, "We hope the data will lead decision makers to increase investments in women's work force development and training programs and require that projects receiving stimulus funds increase their benchmarks for female participation."

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