Click to view larger image. Credit: <a href="" target="_blank">Montgomery Commission for Women</a>

A new report from the Montgomery County Commission for Women finds that almost 42,000 women in the county lived below the poverty level in 2017 — a 66 percent increase from a decade earlier.

The report, “A Tale of Two Counties: The Status of Women in Montgomery County,” which the commission publishes every 10 years, includes information about the health, socioeconomic status, education and other factors affecting women.

Among the findings:

  • 41,913 women living below the poverty level, defined nationally as individuals whose annual income is less than $12,140. The U.S. Census bureau estimates that the county’s overall poverty rate is 6.73 percent, but the rate jumps to 9.8 percent for women ages 18 to 24.
  • 4,200 women and girls were not active in school or work. This number excludes stay-at-home mothers or those who live with their own child. Women also, however, hold graduate degrees at three times the national rate.
  • A woman earns an average of 18 percent less than her male counterpart, slightly above the national average. But women with graduate and professional degrees earn more than women in all but three counties nationally with 150,000 people or more.
  • Women of color experienced significantly higher fatal rates breast cancer than white women. Women also suffered higher rates of HIV and chlamydia than men.
  • Politically, the situation is mixed. Following the 2018 elections, women controlled all seven seats on the Montgomery County school board, as well as four of seven circuit court judgeships and 71 of 188 seats in the state legislature. But the number of women on the County Council decreased from four in 2006 to one.

Nearly 52 percent of the county’s 1.05 million residents are women, according to Census Bureau statistics.

Montgomery County Council President Nancy Navarro said the statistics were concerning, particularly since the number of women living in poverty increased from the last survey, conducted in 2007.

“When you look at the data it’s not that different. We’ve had this challenge with single moms. It goes to this issue of equity,” Navarro said at a Monday session with reporters. “But I think this report demonstrates that we do have a number of challenges that we have to be very clear about when it comes to expanding our tax base. Creating jobs. Housing. It’s all connected.”


Navarro said the council’s work in the coming weeks aimed at achieving racial equity in the county will also include ways to close the gender gap.

“It’s affecting all of these policy areas. At some point you have to realize that you can’t address this as niche issues,” she said.

Information in the survey, released at a weekend forum, was obtained from CountyStat, the data analytics team in the county executive’s office.


This story has been corrected from a previous version that used an incorrect figure for the number of women living in poverty. The initial story said 16,000 women were below the poverty level. In fact, the number of women in poverty increased by 16,000 between 2007 and 2017 to reach 42,000.

Dan Schere can be reached at