The sharp and steady increase in female-headed households in the decade between 1970 and 1980 stimulated a resurgence of interest by social scientists and policy makers in female single-parent families. This shift in the composition and organization of the American family, combined with the escalation in poverty among women and children, was of particular concern because although this dual phenomenon of female headship and poverty transcended racial, class and regional boundaries, it was disproportionately distributed among the Black and White population. It was in this context that the term “feminization of poverty” emerged, a term designed to capture and stress the declining economic position of women, which Stallard, Ehrenreich and Sklar described as follows:

Two out of three poor adults are women and one out of five children is poor. Women head half of all poor families: 50 percent of white children; 68 percent of black and Latin children… 100,000 additional women with children fell below the poverty line each year from 1969 to 1978. In 1979 the number surged to 150,000 and was matched in 1980. Households headed by women - now 15 percent of all households - are the fastest growing type in the country. (Stallard, Ehrenreich and Sklar, 1983: 6–7)