A survey released this week says U.S. households headed by women have about one-half the income and less that one-third the wealth of households headed by men.

Researchers with the Consumer Federation of America found U.S. households headed by women face significantly more serious financial challenges than all others.

Economic data from 2001 showed that about 17 million U.S. households are headed by women, or about 16 percent of the total.

The study found that the typical income for households headed by a woman is $20,000, about half the U.S. average of $39,000.

The situation is even bleaker when it comes to accumulated wealth. In 2001, the average household headed by a woman had a net worth of almost $28,000. The typical American household was worth more than $86,000.

Consumer advocates say more education and support is needed to help women cope with this financial gap.

Candace Bahr is a founder of the non-profit Women's Institute for Financial Education. The institute organizes women-only groups, called money clubs, that meet to discuss financial planning. Women talk about budgeting and saving, and encourage each other to set financial goals. About 3,000 women participate in the United States, and there are now groups in 17 other countries."Certainly, women often have different issues in other countries, but the idea of women getting together, and talking and helping each other is the same no matter where it is," she said.

Researchers say, within the United States, the number of households supported by single women continues to increase.

But Ms. Bahr says, until the income gap between men and women is eliminated, it is important to encourage women to learn more about financial planning. She says, through support groups like money clubs, they will be better prepared to cope with the income gap.