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Women Are Swelling the Ranks of People Living in Extreme Poverty in America

Poor women are often ignored or regarded with contempt in the U.S.

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For the most part, however, poor women remain invisible, even as the mothers who feed the children, teenagers, elderly and disabled who live with them. They do not elicit compassion. If anything, they are ignored or regarded with contempt.

Whatever the reason, Americans are having a national debate about poor and needy Americans without addressing the very group whose poverty is the greatest. The result is that we are turning poor, single mothers, who are 85 percent of all single parents, into a newly invisible and undeserving group of recipients.

Republicans may view single mothers as sinful parasites who don’t deserve food assistance. But behind every hungry child, teenager and elderly person is a hungry mother who is exhausted from trying to keep her family together. Women who receive food assistance are neither invisible nor undeserving. They are working-class heroes who work hard — often at several minimal wage jobs — to keep their families nourished and together.

Ruth Rosen, a former columnist for the Los Angeles Times, is a Professor Emeriti of History at U.C. Davis and a Scholar in Residence at the Center for the Study of Right-Wing Movements at U.C. Berkeley. Her most recent book is "The World Split Open: How the Modern Women’s Movement Changed America."