The poverty of households headed by women has emerged as an important development issue in the recent past. Evidence from many developing countries, specially in Latin America and Africa, has underlined the economic vulnerability of this group and predicted an increasing incidence of female•headed households in developing societies [Buvinic and Youssef (1978); Kossaudji and Mueller (1983); Merrick and Schmink (1983)]. Among Asian countries sample surveys have revealed a significant proportion of female-headed households in Sri Lanka, Malaysia and some states in India (Visaria 1980). In the context of Pakistan, research in this area is virtually non-existent. Although the questionnaires of the various censuses do provide information on sex and other characteristics of household heads, this data are not available in tabulated form in any of the census reports. However, a recent survey of 1000 women in Karachi conducted in 1987 makes it possible for the first time to investigate, in detail, the characteristics of female-headed households. The sample of 680 working women and 320 non-working women covered a whole range of social and income classes. Among the 680 working women was included the sub-sample of 100 female heads of households. Combined information was collected on women and their households through a fairly lengthy questionnaire: the interview schedule comprised questions on earnings, ethnic affiliations, education, age, sex, and occupation of all household members, division of domestic responsibilities in the household and employment history of individual women.