Meet the Press   |  January 12, 2014

The Shriver Report: Female Poverty in America

Maria Shriver visits Meet the Press to discuss her recent discoveries on the impact of poverty on women and families.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> year, isn't it time to declare big government 's war on poverty a failure?

>> that was florida senator marco rubio from a video he released this week. it was 50 years ago that president lyndon johnson declared war on poverty. well, now, a new report from nbc news special anchor maria shriver gives us an eye-opening look at the financial struggles for millions of women in the u.s. it is called "the shriver report," the latest in a series, a woman's nation pushes back from the brink. maria is here to reveal the results. welcome back.

>> thank you, david.

>> before we have our conversation, i want to look at some of the key findings in your report.

>> reporter: the troubling headline from the report, that 1 in 3 american women live at or near the brink of poverty. that's 42 million women and 28 million children who depend on them. medical illness , a missed paycheck, a broken-down car away from economic ruin. the face of economic insecurity has changed from 50 years ago when president lyndon johnson launched his war on poverty . the man who led that effort was maria shriver 's father, sargent shriver . he appeared here on "meet the press" back in 1964 .

>> they're getting too little food, inadequate education, they're living in substandard housing , but most of all they have no chance of getting out of the condition they're in and joining the rest of american society .

>> reporter: back then, the face of poverty was appalachian. today i it's mothers like catika tee katrina gilbert, who works at a senior center .

>> hi. are you done?

>> yes, i am.

>> reporter: her story is profiled in a new hbo documentary made for "the shriver report."

>> i'll be back tomorrow.

>> $9.49 an hour for what we do.

>> reporter: for millions of women like katrina , "the shriver report" documents how the dream of having it all has morphed into just hanging on, working mothers caught between their roles as breadwinners and primary caregivers.

>> you call us, dad?

>> yeah.

>> reporter: it isn't the cleaver family of the 1950s anymore. today only 20% of families have a father who works and a stay-at-home mom. now 4 out of every 10 families with children have mothers who are the primary or only breadwinner. and the report looked at how women on the brink view their own lives. 54% feel the harder i work the more i fall behind. 60% feel the economy does not work for people like me. and 75% wish they had stayed in school longer. but these women are also optimistic. 62% believe their financial situation will get better in the next five years.

>> and we're back with maria. good to see you.

>> yeah. that's exciting. i think all the women think their lives can get better, but i think it's a wake-up call to the united states that 1 in 3 working women in this country are in economic peril.

>> what i'm curious about, when you write about it in this report, is women have arrived, have transformed society in so many ways, getting more power, becoming breadwinner, still as caregivers. such a huge impact from leadership to consumer behavior , and yet this, and yet the 1 out of 3 on the brink. why?

>> because so many women don't have the advantages that other women have, just like men. so many of the women that responded to our poll said they wished they had stayed and gotten their education. that's a predictor of being in economic peril. the message of this report is to women as well, to say you must think of yourself as providers, not being provided for. you've got to stay in school. you've got to get your education. delay family planning as long as you possibly can because those are primary indicators of ending up on the brink.

>> we were talking about men's and women 's roles changing in society.

>> right.

>> we're going to do that at some point, have that larger conversation because it's so interesting and so important. but this plays a role, right, in a huge way in how, for one thing, how women negotiate some of these difficulties at work. they may have a tough schedule, may not have a lot of leverage. this is not cheryl stand berg talking act leaning in. they are leaning in but they're still stuck.

>> these are women who feel like they don't have a foundation to stand on. they don't want to be told to reach for the glass ceiling . they don't have flexible hours. 70% of the women who earn minimum wage don't have one sick day. the poll we did, over 3,000 people, respond with the number-one thing that would make the most difference to them was getting sick days.

>> how do they negotiate better?

>> first of all, they have to come together, right, for those women like you saw katrina gilbert, negotiating isn't even on her plate. she's trying to figure out how to take care of her kids, pay her rent, put food on the table. she's also looking to go back to school because she doesn't want to stay in the low-paying job that she has. these are people who are trying to survive on palestiniminimum wage, which is not a living wage .

>> the report itself is so interesting. i've been going through it and it's such a great resource and interesting read at different lefls. you have lebron james paying tribute to his mom, a single mother , a rock of stability for him and his later success. the role of men here is interesting because there are a lot of single moms you're talking nabt this book, but men as caregivers has got to be a part of this conversation.

>> men totally a part of this conversation in terms of how they raise their daughters, in terms of how they support their wives and their partners. and what's good for women at the center of the economy is also goold nor men. men need flexible hours. men need sick days because they're going to be caring for parents as well. men need all these things that these women need. these are smart family policies that we're talking about in this report. i think if people are interested in the report you can download it for free at shriverreport d.org and read about it. we're saying government and businesses have not kept up and we need to modernize our relationships to women .

>> you heard marco rubio . there's obviously a debate. conservatives want to get more into the discussion of dealing poverty even as they renounce the war on poverty from lyndon johnson a failure. where does government play a role?

>> i would like to correct that. the war on poverty was not a failure. daddy ran the program. many of those programs still exist today. when the war on poverty was funded, it was a success. when the money was diverted to the war in vietnam it lost its momentum. but programs like head start, vista, job corps , legal services for the poor, the people that benefited from those programs i don't think think it was a failure. but i think it's great that mark rub rubio, paul ryan , and others are engaged in this debantamweight right now. that's what we wanted to do with this report was ignite a conversation about low-income people.

>> what do women need?

>> they haven't talked about women at all, as far as i'm concerned, which is why i was happy to give this report to congressman ryan. i hope senator rubio begins to talk about putting women at the center of some of the proposals they're putting forward. i think this will be an issue that democrats and republicans have got to come together on. i learned that being a democratic first lady in a republican administration in a democratic state that there's a lot of things states can do that are innovative, a lot of innovative things going on in nonprofits and church groups. i think when democrats and republicans can come together on these issues we will see movement, we will see political will, but also i think women who are 54% of the vote, they should come together and support men and women who are running for office who talk about these things. it's not the purview of just democrats. it's not the purview of just female politicians and elected leaders. men have a lot to say about this as well.

>> and maybe understanding that it's the power of women is ultimately the power of our country, not separating it out.

>> absolutely not. i think women are at the center of our country. they're at the center, as i said, in electing our political leaders , the center of the economy, the center of the family. and when women do well, men do well and the nation does well. when women do well, they don't just support other women doing well, but we support our sons and our daughters. i think this i hope will ignite an entire conversation about women who are doing really well and those that are on the margins. we call for women to be 21st century employers themselves. there's a lot we can do that involves personal responsibility, that involves business, and that involves government. so i would agree with rubio and ryan that it's not just the area of government, but i would say there's a lot government still can do.

>> 20 seconds left. you talked about your mother. she thought power was about becoming a politician.

>> in her day and age, i believe that's where power was. today it's in the streets and washington responds to what comes up from the streets. i hope people will read this report, take it in, talk about it at their kitchen tables and i hope parents will talk to their daughters about being providers for themselves and their families.

>> ly do that.

>> do that.