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Research News Roundup: July 2015

The Research News Roundup (RNR) is prepared monthly by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR). Articles contained in each edition of the RNR address research on women’s issues and topics of interest to women and their families. To receive the RNR by email, subscribe or update your subscription settings.


Black Children are Nearly Four Times as Likely as White Children to Live in Poverty, Report Says

By Mark Berman | Washington Post | 7.14.2015

“Black children were nearly four times as likely as white or Asian children to be living in poverty in 2013, according a new Pew Research Center report analyzing Census Bureau data. The poverty rate fell among Hispanic, white and Asian children in 2013, yet even as this rate declined for them, it remained the same for black children. About four in 10 black children were living in poverty in 2013, compared to about three in 10 Hispanic children and one in 10 white or Asian children. Black and Hispanic children are acutely over-represented in terms of child poverty.”

Citing: Black Child Poverty Rate Holds Steady, Even as Other Groups See Declines, by Eileen Patten and Jens Manuel Krogstad, Pew Research Center

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More Than 95% of Women Who Get an Abortion Don’t Regret Their Decision, Even Three Years Later

By Ed Cara | Medical Daily | 7.13.2015

“Fighting back against long-held stereotypes about the inherent shame and grief that supposedly comes with obtaining an abortion, a study published in PLOS-One last week has found that 95 percent of women surveyed felt their abortion was the right choice to make, even when reflecting back on the decision over three years later… ‘Women in this study overwhelmingly felt that the decision was the right one for them: at all time points over three years, 95 percent of participants reported abortion was the right decision, with the typical participant having a greater than 99 percent chance of reporting the abortion decision was right for her,’ the authors concluded. ‘Women also experienced reduced emotional intensity over time: the feelings of relief and happiness experienced shortly after the abortion tended to subside, as did negative emotions. Notably, we found no differences in emotional trajectories or decision rightness between women having earlier versus later procedures.’”

Citing: Decision Rightness and Emotional Responses to Abortion in the United States: A Longitudinal Study, by Corinne H. Rocca, Katrina Kimport , Sarah C. M. Roberts , Heather Gould, John Neuhaus, Diana G. Foster, PLOS-One

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Black Girls Matter: For Too Long, the Sexual Abuse to Prison Pipeline has Gone Unchecked

By Teresa C. Younger | Huffington Post | 7.10.2015

“The report tells the story of how sexual abuse–which begins for many girls in the juvenile justice system between ages five to seven–directly leads to their imprisonment. Up to 80 percent of girls in the juvenile justice system have been sexually abused. Black girls who have been sexually abused and their Native American and Latina sisters–no matter how young–are not seen as victims. As the report explains, the justice system is plagued with a bias of race, class and gender that results in these young women and girls being seen as perpetrators. Too often the initial choice to punish and incarcerate an abused girl sets in motion a vicious cycle of abuse and imprisonment that continues throughout her life. In fact, a girl with a history of sexual abuse is five times more likely to be re-arrested once released.”

Citing: The Sexual Abuse to Prison Pipeline: The Girls’ Story, by Malika Saada Saar, Rebecca Epstein, Lindsay Rosenthal, and Yasmin Vafa, Human Rights Project for Girls, Georgetown Law Center on Poverty and Inequality, and Ms. Foundation for Women

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Women Less Likely to be Shown Ads for High-Paid Jobs on Google, Study Shows

By Samuel Gibbs | The Guardian | 7.08.2015

“Female job seekers are much less likely to be shown adverts on Google for highly paid jobs than men, researchers have found. The team of researchers from Carnegie Mellon built an automated testing rig called AdFisher that pretended to be a series of male and female job seekers. Their 17,370 fake profiles only visited jobseeker sites and were shown 600,000 adverts which the team tracked and analysed. The authors of the study wrote: ‘In particular, we found that males were shown ads encouraging the seeking of coaching services for high paying jobs more than females.’ One experiment showed that Google displayed adverts for a career coaching service for ‘$200k+’ executive jobs 1,852 times to the male group and only 318 times to the female group.”

Citing: Automated Experiments on Ad Privacy Settings: A Tale of Opacity, Choice, and Discrimination, by Amit Datta, Michael Carl Tschantz, and Anupam Datta, Proceedings on Privacy Enhancing Technologies

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Colorado’s Effort Against Teenage Pregnancies Is a Startling Success

By Sabrina Tavernise | The New York Times | 7.05.2015

Citing: Reducing Unintended Teen Pregnancy in Colorado, by Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment

“Over the past six years, Colorado has conducted one of the largest experiments with long-acting birth control. If teenagers and poor women were offered free intrauterine devices and implants that prevent pregnancy for years, state officials asked, would those women choose them? They did in a big way, and the results were startling. The birthrate among teenagers across the state plunged by 40 percent from 2009 to 2013, while their rate of abortions fell by 42 percent, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. There was a similar decline in births for another group particularly vulnerable to unplanned pregnancies: unmarried women under 25 who have not finished high school.”

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Gender, Urbanization, and Democratic Governance

By Institute for Women’s Policy Research and the National Democratic Institute | Institute for Women’s Policy Research | June 2015

With two-thirds of the world’s population predicted to live in urban areas by the year 2050, the global landscape is changing rapidly. Urbanization brings with it numerous benefits, but the growing inequality between and within cities has complicated implications for urban residents, especially for those that have been historically marginalized. For women in particular, accessing the increased social, economic, and political opportunities ostensibly available to them in cities can be, in reality, incredibly difficult to take advantage of.

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Raising the Minimum Wage to $12 by 2020 Would Lift Wages for 35 Million American Workers

By David Cooper | Economic Policy Institute | July 2015

“Decades of infrequent and inadequate adjustment to the federal minimum wage have left today’s low-wage workers earning significantly less than their counterparts 50 years ago. Raising the federal minimum wage to $12 per hour by 2020 would lift wages for one-quarter of American workers and help restore the minimum wage’s role as a labor standard that ensures work is a means to escape poverty, according to EPI economic analyst David Cooper. In Raising the Minimum Wage to $12 by 2020 Would Lift Wages for 35 Million American Workers, Cooper analyzes the impact of the Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) and Representative Robert ‘Bobby’ Scott’s (D-VA) Raise the Wage Act of 2015, which proposes raising the minimum wage to $12 by 2020 and gradually eliminating the subminimum wage for tipped workers.”

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Raising the Future: Parenting Practices Among Immigrant Mothers

By Julia Gelatt, H. Elizabeth Peters, Heather Koball, and William Monson | Urban Institute | June 2015

To understand how children of immigrants are faring in the United States, it is important to examine contextual factors. In this paper, we analyze family influences; specifically, differences in parenting among immigrant mothers with different national origins, focusing on mothers from Mexico, other Latin American countries, China, and other Asian countries. Using the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Birth Cohort, we look at the economic, work, social support, and health contexts in which immigrant families are situated, and at differences in parenting practices. We then explore whether differences in contexts mediate the parenting differences our analyses reveal.

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A Policy Agenda for Closing the Racial Wealth Gap

By Center for Global Policy Solutions | Center for Global Policy Solutions | June 2015

“The 200 members of the Experts of Color Network released ‘A Policy Agenda for Closing the Racial Wealth Gap’ today. Black and Latino families hold 6 and 7 cents respectively for every dollar of wealth held by white families. These wide-ranging policies aim to remove structural barriers preventing families of color from attaining economic stability for themselves and future generations. The policies are grouped in seven categories: employment, financial services, entrepreneurship, housing, education, tax policy, and retirement. The document also highlights the importance of targeting policies to address the needs of those most disadvantaged and, in the process, provide positive race-specific results.”

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Child Care in America: The 2015 State Fact Sheets

By Child Care Aware of America | Child Care Aware of America | June 2015

“To remain competitive in the 21st-century global economy, the United States must recognize the value of child care as an investment in early childhood education and as a support system for working families. Child Care in America: 2015 State Fact Sheets provides important data to better understand America’s working families and the circumstances they face. As such, it is a critical tool for child care advocates, policymakers and program administrators to guide decision-making about child care programs and costs.”

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IWPR Survey Finds Construction Trades Offer Good Wages for Women Workers, but Harassment and Discrimination Still Common

by Ariane Hegewisch

During the past 40 years, many previously male-dominated occupations have become integrated, but women’s share of construction trades jobs has remained below five percent. Despite this, because the construction industry is so large, more women work in the construction trades than work as dental hygienists, pharmacists, or veterinarians. As the construction industry continues to add jobs in the recovery following the Great Recession, and as the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that construction occupations will see above average employment growth in the coming years, the question of how to unblock the construction industry for women is once again on the agenda and gaining interest: a recent webinar on women in construction hosted by the Women’s Bureau of the U.S. Department of Labor attracted close to 1,000 registrants.

Two new IWPR publications provide insights into women’s experiences working in construction and offer suggestions for how to reduce barriers to entry. An IWPR Research-in-Brief, Women in Construction and the Economic Recovery: Results from the 2013 IWPR Tradeswomen Survey, presents results from an exploratory survey conducted in the spring of 2013. The survey, which includes responses from over 200 women working in the trades, presents a mixed picture. Over 40 percent of tradeswomen respondents earned at least $50,000 in 2012. Yet, only 27 percent had been able to work year-round and 22 percent of respondents were unemployed.Figure from Tradeswoman BP

Fewer than two-thirds of respondents report equal treatment when it comes to being respected on the job, hiring and allocation of hours, and assignments. Only 42 percent report equal treatment when it comes to promotions, and 30 percent report that they are “always” or “frequently” sexually harassed. Rates of racial harassment and discrimination, discrimination based on sexual orientation, and age discrimination are even higher and, in fact, more than one in ten respondents have taken discrimination claims to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Another recent study, Untapped Resources, Untapped Labor Pool: Using Federal Highway Funds to Prepare Women for Careers in Construction, provides examples of how women’s under-representation in construction is being addressed by targeted policies and funding in Oregon and Maryland. Since 2009, Oregon has reserved part of its federal highway funding to increase diversity in the highway construction workforce. Oregon has funded child care and other retention services for construction apprentices, pre-apprenticeship training, career fairs and outreach, and supervisor training for employers on how to tackle workplace discrimination and harassment. Retention rates for women and minority male apprentices have improved significantly, and women’s share of construction apprenticeships in Oregon is twice the national rate.

The first brief shows what is keeping many women out of construction jobs, and what is needed to help them get into and succeed in the trades. But turning that knowledge into action takes resources. The second brief offers examples from Oregon and Maryland for creating a stable funding source to build diversity in the construction workforce.
Ariane Hegewisch is a Study Director at the Institute for Women’s Policy Research.

Top 5 IWPR Findings of 2014

by Jourdin Batchelor

This was an exciting year for the Institute for Women’s Policy Research. In 2014, we published over 50 reports, fact sheets, and briefing papers. We received more than 1,700 citations in the media and participated in more than 175 speaking engagements. Below are our top 5 findings of 2014 (plus a bonus!). Let us know which one you found most surprising on Twitter or Facebook using #IWPRtop5.

1. Nearly 7 Million Workers in California Lack Paid Sick Days

blog1 (psd)

Earlier this year, the Institute for Women’s Policy Research provided analytic support to help California become the 2nd state in the nation to guarantee paid sick days to  workers who need them.

IWPR’s data analysis found that 44 percent of California’s workers lack access to a single paid sick day. Additionally, access to paid sick days in the state varies widely by race and ethnicity, economic sector, work schedule, occupation, and earnings level. IWPR’s findings were featured in articles published by Bloomberg Businessweek, The New Republic, ThinkProgress, and NPR.

2. Equal pay for working women would cut poverty in half.

Equal Pay_Poverty

IWPR analysis shows that the poverty rate for working women would be cut in half if women were paid the same as comparable men. IWPR’s analysis—prepared for use in The Shriver Report: A Woman’s Nation Pushes Back from the Brink and produced with the Center for American Progress—also estimates an increase in U.S. GDP by 2.9 percent in 2012 if women received equal pay.

3. Washington, DC, Ranks Highest for Women’s Employment and Earnings; West Virginia Ranks Lowest

IWPR employment and earnings map

This September, IWPR released a short preview of its forthcoming Status of Women in the States report, featuring material from the chapter on women’s employment and earnings with grades and state rankings. The preview was featured in more than half of the states and received more than 150 press citations, with dedicated articles and reprints of the grades in The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, and Time.

The analysis found that eight of the top eleven states that received a grade of B or higher are located in the Northeast. In addition to West Virginia, seven of the fourteen lowest ranked states, which received a grade of D+ or lower, are located in the South: Alabama, Louisiana, Arkansas, Mississippi, Kentucky, Tennessee, and South Carolina. Wyoming, Idaho, Oklahoma, Indiana, Utah, and Missouri round out the bottom group.

4. 4.8 Million College Students are Raising Children

single moms

Last month, the Institute’s Student Parent Success Initiative released two fact sheets: one outlining the number of student parents and one that highlights the decline of campus child care even as more parents attend college.

IWPR found that women are 71 percent of all student parents, and single mothers make up 43 percent of the student parent population. Women of color are the most likely students to be raising children while pursuing a postsecondary degree. The research was featured in in-depth pieces by Ylan Q. Mui at The Washington Post and Gillian B. White at The Atlantic, and in popular posts on Quartz, Jezebel, and The Chronicle of Higher Education.

5. *Tie* If current trends continue, women will not receive equal pay until 2058 or achieve equal representation in Congress until 2121.

2058  Political Parity Projection

The Institute updated its benchmark fact sheet, The Gender Wage Gap, and calculated that, at the recent rate of progress, the majority of women will not see equal pay during their working lives: a gap will remain until the year 2058. The projection was featured in news stories by The Huffington Post, The Atlantic, The Nation, Forbes, and others.

Another IWPR projection analyzed the current rate of progress in women’s political leadership and found that women in the United States will not have an equal share of seats in Congress until 2121. To address this disparity, IWPR published results from an in-depth study, Building Women’s Political Careers: Strengthening the Pipeline to Higher Office, which details findings from interviews and focus groups with experienced candidates, elected officials, state legislators, and congressional staff members. The projection and the study were featured in The Washington Post, Slate, and TIME.

Bonus: More than half of working women are discouraged or prohibited from discussing pay at work.

pay secrecy facebook

As part of its 2010 Rockefeller survey of women and men following the Great Recession, IWPR found that more than half of working women, including 63 percent of single mothers, are discouraged or prohibited from discussing their pay at work. These data provided the first snapshot of how prevalent pay secrecy is at American workplaces and received renewed attention in 2014 when President Obama signed an executive order in April requiring greater pay transparency among federal contractors. IWPR’s research on pay secrecy was heavily featured in coverage throughout the year, including pieces in The New York Times, The Atlantic, Marie Claire, TIME, Slate, and others, as well as interviews with IWPR experts on NPR’s Morning Edition, MSNBC’s The Rachel Maddow Show, and PBS NewsHour.

Your still have a chance to make research count for women in 2014. Click here to make a tax-deductible donation to IWPR.

Jourdin Batchelor is the Development Associate at the Institute for Women’s Policy Research.

NGCP Champions for Collaboration: Barbara Gault, Vice President & Executive Director of IWPR

This piece appeared in the December newsletter produced by the National Girls Collaborative Project. Find out more about their Program Directory of organizations and programs that focus on motivating girls to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).

Barbara Gault, IWPR Vice President & Executive Director

Barbara Gault, IWPR Vice President & Executive Director

NGCP Champions Board members are selected to provide the NGCP with a balance of expertise and regional representation. We highlight Champions Board members to inspire and inform your work to engage girls in STEM. This month we feature Barbara Gault, VP and Executive Director of the Institute for Women’s Policy Research.

What excites you most about your work? I love that I get to do research designed to support social change. I have always enjoyed the research process: identifying important questions that haven’t been answered, designing relevant methods, and getting results. It is even more gratifying when our studies inform new policies or programs, such as new laws requiring employers to provide workers with paid sick leave that have passed in a number of cities and states around the country. I met a woman at a conference recently who said that our report, about welfare recipients in higher education, motivated her to go to college and she carries the study with her on her smart phone. Times like that make me glad to be doing science in an applied setting. I am lucky to have a job where I am always learning about new issues, and collaborating with brilliant new partners, who are committed to a positive vision for the future.

What do you most appreciate in a collaborator?
There are all kinds of qualities that contribute energy to a collaboration. Nobody possesses them all. I appreciate a sense of humor, an optimistic attitude, authenticity, passion, a willingness to learn from mistakes, openness, humility, accountability, a growth mindset, skills of all kinds, and intellect. Every collaboration brings a different mix, which is what makes it so interesting! Part of the joy is learning about the gifts and talents of others, picking up new skills along the way, making new friends, and celebrating your accomplishments together.

What advice would you give to the NGCP community?
I would encourage our NGCP community to take some risks together, and to be a little noisier, more demanding, and more creative about ensuring that girls, and especially low-income girls and girls of color, have more opportunities to immerse themselves in STEM. We need to inspire more energized commitment to speeding the pace of change, especially in computer IT. Together we can hold schools, colleges, businesses, and other employers and the media accountable for making progress toward gender and racial/ethnic equality in STEM.

IWPR Commemorates the 50th Anniversary of President Kennedy’s Commission on the Status of Women Report

by Jessica Milli, Ph.D.

To commemorate the 50th anniversary of 1963’s American Women: Report of the President’s Commission on the Status of Women, the Women’s Bureau of the U.S. Department of Labor sponsored a series of Scholars’ Papers. As part of this effort, IWPR prepared papers on parental leave and on occupational segregation and the wage gap.

Paid Parental Leave in the United States reviews research and data sources on paid leave for family related purposes. Despite the recommendation in the 1963 report that paid maternity leave be pro­vided for female workers, it took another thirty years’ for the passage of the federal Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA) to provide at least unpaid job protected maternity and paternity leave. Due to the structure of the FMLA, as of 2012, only 59 percent of workers were eli­gible for FMLA leave. With the exception of a few states with more generous family leave policies, FMLA leave is unpaid, and many families cannot afford to use it as much as they would like.

The IWPR paper also details previous research on the economic and health benefits of paid family leave. Paid family leave can improve the labor force at­tachment of workers, improve employee morale and productivity, reduce worker turnover, and positively impact economic growth. Such benefits to firms may help offset the costs of implementing paid leave policies. Research further suggests that expanding paid leave is likely to have economy-wide benefits such as reduced spending on public assistance programs and increased labor force participa­tion. Access to leave, whether it is paid or not, can increase breastfeeding rates and duration, reduce the risk of infant mortality, and increase the likelihood of infants receiving well-baby care and vaccinations.

The paper also reviews federal data sources on paid and unpaid leave and highlights gaps and inconsistencies in the information avail­able. The paper argues for a more sys­tematic federal effort to improve the data infrastructure on this important benefit for working families.

Occupational Segregation and the Gender Wage Gap documents changes since the 1960s in the types of jobs that men and women perform and links those trends with recent lack of change in the gender wage gap. Women have made large strides toward equality in the labor force, including increasing their representation in occupations that have traditionally been dominated by men— such as management, accounting, and law. However, not all occupations have seen increased integration over the years, and many remain heavily male- or female-dominated. The paper docu­ments that progress has stalled, point­ing out that both progress in improving occupational integration and progress in closing the gender wage gap stalled at the beginning of the last decade. This relationship suggests that occupa­tional segregation should be a priority of policy efforts to address the wage gap, either by focusing on encourag­ing women to enter more integrated or male-dominated occupations, or by im­proving earnings in female-dominated occupations, or both.

The papers are available on the Women’s Bureau website and on IWPR’s website.

Jessica Milli, Ph.D. is an IWPR Senior Research Associate.

When Student Loans are the Only Way to Pay for Child Care

A Student Parent’s Story of Balancing School, Parenthood, and Debt

by Andrea Fitch

Andrea Fitch

Andrea Fitch

I. Deciding to Go Back to School: “We needed to be a dual income family.”

When I first learned I was going to be a parent, I was overwhelmed with a combination of joy and nerves. I was ecstatic to take on the journey of parenthood, but I had not realized the high cost of essentials, such as diapers, formula, strollers, and, especially, child care. I wondered how it would all work out.

I was fortunate to have my husband and father of my children along with me throughout my journey of parenthood. But even with a partner, it was difficult to meet our children’s basic needs. My husband worked a seasonal job in the landscape industry, and being a stay-at-home mother was never an option for me. We needed to be a dual income family. But with both of us working full-time, that also meant we needed to secure full-time child care.

After four years of struggling to pay for basic needs and child care, it became clear that high school degrees and the limited career fields they offered would not be enough. We knew we needed better paying jobs and that the way to achieve this goal was through higher education. With the support of my husband, I began a new journey: obtaining a bachelor’s degree.

II. Going to School Full-Time Still Requires Full-Time Child Care: “My only option was to take out more student loans.”

I reduced my work hours from 40 to 32 per week and started school part-time at a community college. Doing so allowed me to keep our health insurance and maintain our child care spots. But after one year, I was offered a significantly large scholarship that would extend throughout my graduation on the terms that I attend college full-time.

Quitting my job to attend college full-time meant that our monthly income would be dramatically reduced—but we still had the same expenses, including child care. Someone had to watch the kids while I was at school! I supplemented resources using public services such as Medicaid and SNAP. At the time—in 2010, when state economies faced many budget cuts—the Colorado Childcare Assistance Program (CCAP) was on a freeze and child care resources were not available. There just wasn’t enough money for all families in Colorado that needed the assistance. I needed to find an alternative way to pay for child care, which at the time averaged about $800 per month through a home care provider.

Although the college I attended had a child care facility on campus, there was a long waiting list and most of the spots were taken by faculty and staff at the university. Furthermore, the cost of the on-campus child care facility, which would have been the most convenient option, was more than our family could afford. My husband’s paychecks went to rent, cars, gas, and other needs public assistance services couldn’t provide. My only option was to take out more in school loans to pay for child care.

The logistics of sorting out child care arrangements were time-consuming and often stressful, but eventually, I found reliable, affordable child care for the kids while I was at school or studying. I was also grateful the kids were not in harm and loved the people they spent time with when I couldn’t be around. I had earned a 4.0 GPA my junior year and made the Dean’s list. Everything seemed to be working out as I progressed through my journey to a degree. This felt like a huge accomplishment for someone who thought a college degree was impossible.

But beyond all this joy lurked a new reality: paying back all the student loan money I borrowed. For two years, I took out additional money from my school loans to pay for child care—and the money was adding up.

III. Dealing with Debt: “Half of my school loan debt was due to child care costs alone.”

By my senior year, I had earned 5 scholarships and various grants, which was enough to fully fund my senior year of college. I was relieved that I didn’t have to take out extra loan money to pay for school fees, but these scholarships and grants did not cover child care. To get through my senior year and graduate, I had to take out more student loans just for child care.

After graduation, I was glad to have achieved a goal that would benefit not only me as an individual, but also benefit my family and our future. A few months later, however, the reality of my student debt began to sink in. My total school loan debt was near $30,000, a rather small amount compared to other graduates, but I still hoped it would be less due to the size of the scholarships and grants I had received. Then I realized that half of my school loan debt was due to child care costs alone. As I stared at the numbers my only thought was, “My school loan debt would be so much less if I didn’t need childcare.” I often wonder how much more freeing it would be for the financial future of my family if I didn’t have that extra debt. The quicker I pay off my student loan debt, the sooner I will be able to better provide for my family.

Although there were several roadblocks along the way, I achieved my goal and am better able to provide for my family because of my education.  But even with a better paying job, I am still overwhelmed when I think about paying off my student loan debt. Loans were essential in paying for school and basic needs when I couldn’t, but it’s a debt that I must pay every month.

Andrea Fitch is a teacher in Colorado.


Learn more about IWPR’s Student Parent Success Initiative, and read the new report, College Affordability for Low-Income Adults: Improving Returns on Investment for Families and Society.


My Brother’s Keeper Skating on Thin Evidence?

by Heidi Hartmann, Ph.D.

Once again the President’s advisors in the White House do not appear to be serving him well.  Despite a thin base of evidence regarding the effectiveness of programs targeting boys and men of color, the President is going all out to exclude girls and women of color for an important initiative.

The President announced My Brother’s Keeper as a new initiative at the end of February and called upon the task force that he formed to review data and develop indicators to measure progress for boys and young men of color, survey government programs to see what is working or not working, reach out to private sector (including nonprofit) partners, and report to him at the end of May.  So far, counting today’s announcements, the task force (consisting of federal officials) has raised more than $300 million in private funds that the White House says will be targeted at improving the opportunities of boys and young men of color.

Almost immediately questions were raised first by women of color in the media, then by 200 black men writing an open letter, and then by more than 1200 women of color doing the same, and then by mainstream women’s organizations issuing statements to the press: where are the girls and young women of color?

Girls and boys of color grow up in the same families, live in the same neighborhoods, and attend the same schools.  Girls and boys of color share many of the same challenges but also face a few that are unique to each gender.  While boys of color score lower than girls on some indicators, girls of color score lower than boys on others.  All would benefit from good programs.

Today, the President announced that several government agencies will make special efforts to increase services that can help boys and young men of color succeed.  Surely women’s organizations will be watching closely to make sure those tax dollars are spent in a gender equitable way.

Unfortunately, there is no comparable, ongoing federal effort to identify challenges facing girls and women of color, review data and develop indicators to measure their progress, survey federal programs to see what is working and or not working for them, or, crucially, raise $300 million from private sources to develop solutions for them.

According to the MBK task force report itself, there is very little evidence that any programs for boys of color work, and, of course to exclude girls, the evidence would have to prove that those that do work do not work as well for boys when girls of color are included.  Although the White House claims the MBK initiative is evidence-based, the report presents no evidence to justify excluding girls and young women of color from the initiative.  Boys are rarely compared with girls in the report and no programs are identified as being successful for boys alone. In other words, the inference that boys of color need this investment of resources more than their female counterparts has yet to be substantiated by the MBK initiative.

In the face of all the criticism, the White House has stonewalled.  Finally six weeks after the report was released and months after the criticism began in the media, White House leaders, including Broderick Johnson, who has led the MBK initiative, Valerie Jarrett, and Tina Tchen, met with a few critics and supporters at the White House on July 15. At that meeting and since, White House officials have said MBK will remain all male.  They are happy to discuss ways to do something for girls and young women of color—perhaps collect better data, for instance—but not through MBK.

Since all federal programs generally must be open to everyone, what’s the point of excluding girls and women of color from this initiative?  I’m sure it comes across as a shocking and hurtful omission to young women and girls of color.

Heidi Hartmann, Ph.D., is the founder and president of the Institute for Women’s Policy Research.

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