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Top 8 IWPR Findings of 2013

1.       If current trends continue, it will take almost another five decades—until 2058—for women to reach pay equity.

Based on an IWPR analysis that projects recent trends forward, most women working today will not see equal pay during their working lives. Furthermore, 2012 Earnings figures released by the U.S. Census Bureau show that real earnings have failed to grow, and the gender wage gap has stayed essentially unchanged since 2001.

2.       Black women, Latinas, and Native American women make up just two percent of STEM faculty at US colleges and universities.

In 2010, underrepresented minority (URM) women (blacks, Hispanics, Native Americans and those who identify as more than one race) were just 2.1 percent of STEM faculty at U.S. 4-year colleges and universities, while comprising 13 percent of the US working aged population. In contrast, white men held 58 percent of these positions, while making up 35 percent of the working age population. The highest level of representation for URM women faculty is in the life sciences and the lowest is in computer science and mathematics.

3.       Of all African American college students in the United States, nearly four in ten are parents. 

Despite the centrality of parenthood to the college experiences of many students of color (including nearly four in ten of African American students, one in three of Native American students, and one in four of Latino students), too few postsecondary institutions directly address their needs or experiences as student-parents, or even know how many parents they have on campus. In fact, campus child care serves less than five percent of the child care needs of college students, and the proportion of public postsecondary institutions with on-campus child care is declining.

4.      In the recovery from the recent recession, women have regained all the jobs they lost, whereas men have regained only 75 percent of the jobs they lost.

In fact, more women are working today than ever before. Despite gains, neither men nor women have regained their pre-recession labor force participation rate, with women’s labor force participation rate peaking in 2000. If the number of jobs had grown as fast as the working age population since the start of the recession, women would hold 3.8 million more jobs in November 2013 and men would hold an additional 5.4 million. Were it not for women’s strong presence in a few growing industries, however, women would have fared much worse than they did in the recovery, as women have either lost proportionately more jobs or gained proportionately fewer jobs than men within each industry—meaning that men’s rate of employment growth has been higher than women’s in every industry.

5.       Expanding paid sick days to newly covered workers in Washington, DC, will save DC employers approximately $2 million per year. Paid sick days also passed in a number of new jurisdictions in 2013.

While DC was among the first cities to pass citywide paid sick days legislation in 2008, the law excluded a number of workers—including most tipped workers—and started coverage only after workers have been employed by a particular employer for more than one year and 1,000 hours. The recently passed amendment to DC’s existing policy, not only expands protections to even more workers in DC. IWPR analysis shows that employers can expect to see the cost of implementing this new policy offset by increased employee productivity, reduced worker absences associated with less contagion of communicable diseases in the workplace, and reduced employee turnover. IWPR’s analyses also helped advocates and policymakers pass new paid sick days laws in New York City and Portland, and inform proposed legislation in Newark, Philadelphia, and proposed statewide legislation in Oregon, Vermont, and Maryland.

6.       Four of the 20 most common occupations for women pay poverty wages.

Occupations that are common to women provide lower earnings: Four of the 20 most common occupations for women—‘maids and housekeeping cleaners,’ ‘waitresses,’ ‘cashiers,’ and ‘retail sales persons’—have median earnings for a full-time week of work that are insufficient to lift a family of four out of poverty. An additional two of the most common occupations for women pay near poverty wages, meaning that six of the 20 occupations common to women pay at or near poverty wages. In fact, male poverty has significantly declined since 2010, while women’s poverty levels have stayed steady, leading to a growing gender poverty gap.

7.       While women hold about half all jobs in the country, they hold only three out of ten jobs in the growing green economy, and are especially underrepresented in the green jobs that are expected to grow the most.

In 33 states, women in green jobs earn at least $1,000 more per year for full-time year-round work than women in the overall economy. However, women are missing from the fastest growing green occupations. For example, many new jobs are expected to be added for heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) technicians, but fewer than two percent of HVAC technicians in the United States are women.

8.       90 percent of in-home health care workers are women, 56 percent are from a minority racial or ethnic group, and 28 percent are immigrants.

As the Baby Boom generation ages (every 8 seconds another American turns 65), women immigrant in-home care workers are filling a gap in home care labor for the elderly.  By 2018, the direct care workforce is expected to number more than 4 million positions, an expansion of 1.1 million workers since 2008. The occupations of home health aides and personal care aides are expected to grow at the fastest rates. Immigrants make up a disproportionate share of the in-home health care workforce at 28 percent, and one in five immigrant direct care workers is undocumented. Lack of legal immigration status leaves many vulnerable to low wages and poor working conditions.

This post was compiled by Jennifer Clark, the Communications Manager for the Institute for Women’s Policy Research.

Bridging the Gap: Bringing the Benefits of Paid Family Leave to American Workers #FAMILYAct

by Lindsey Reichlin and Stephanie Román

ImageImageThis blog post was crossposted at MomsRising.

In its founding year, the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) analyzed the costs to workers of not having unpaid leave for childbirth, personal health needs, or family caregiving in its inaugural publication, Unnecessary Losses: Costs to Americans of the Lack of Family and Medical Leave. IWPR’s research showed that, by not recognizing the  need for work-life balance, established policies not only failed to support workers and their families, but were costly to taxpayers.

Now 20 years old, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) has become a cornerstone of U.S. employment law and human resource policy. But the law stopped short of ensuring true protection to workers: the FMLA only guarantees unpaid family and medical leave for employees, complicating the economic security puzzle for many workers in the United States.

Today, most U.S. employees still lack access to paid family leave. While the FMLA requires that employers provide up to 12 weeks of unpaid job-protected care leave for eligible workers, the lack of a paid parental leave statute means the United States is one of only four countries in the world  without publically sponsored paid maternity leave. Paid family leave can bring important benefits to both families and businesses. Yet, many parents with unpaid leave are forced to choose between financial stability and caring for their newborns.

In 2012, only 35 percent of U.S. employees had access to paid family leave to care for newborns, adopted children, or sick family members.[1] The lack of access is even more pronounced for lower income earners: only five percent of the lowest paid workers had this option. Workers with the least financial security, and therefore the least flexibility to go without pay, often do not have access to income when taking time off for caregiving duties. As a result, the burden of unpaid leave can be too much for many women to bear: almost two-thirds of those who needed but did not take unpaid family leave in 2012 were women.

Expanded access to paid leave would mean substantially increasing the amount of time parents take for caregiving. The impact of the Paid Family Leave program in California, available equally to women and men, gives insight into the difference a paid leave statute could make on a larger scale: the program has doubled the length of leave parents–especially low-income parents–take to stay home with their newborns. It has also significantly increased the number of fathers who take advantage of parental leave, even increasing the length of leave they choose to take.

The time parents spend with young children is crucial for their health and development. When that time is paid, the benefits are even greater. Studies show that paid family leave can dramatically decrease mortality rates for infants and children under age 5, a reduction that does not hold for leave that is unpaid or not job-protected. Paid family leave also increases the initiation and duration of breastfeeding, which can reduce children’s risk for serious illnesses, and improve their cognitive development.

Working women, in particular, stand to benefit from paid family leave. Paid leave could help narrow the persistent wage gap that continues to plague working women. Women who take paid maternity leave have seen an increase in wages and depend less on public assistance in the year after giving birth. Paid maternity leave also keeps women in the workforce, which increases the productivity of the labor force overall, and could potentially improve gender equality both in the home and at work.

Paid family leave has the potential to bring important economic benefits to the country as a whole, as well as to individual businesses. Providing paid leave to federal employees, for example, would save the government and taxpayers $50 million dollars per year in turnover costs by improving recruitment and retention of younger employees. Private industry also benefits from the reduction in costs related to recruiting, hiring, and training. Women in California, particularly those in low-wage jobs, were shown to be more likely to return to the same employer following paid maternity leave than those who did not have access to paid leave.

The myriad benefits of paid family leave are clear. And while a handful of states have passed policies that go beyond the federal requirements, there is much to be done to fill the gap left by FMLA and ensure all workers reap the many benefits of paid family leave. The FAMILY Act represents an important opportunity to do just that by instituting family leave insurance for workers. By allowing parents to care for their loved ones without fear of losing their jobs or incomes, the United States would better support the well-being of its workforce, while simultaneously realigning its priorities with the global norm: providing vital paid family leave to its workers.


[1] A variety of data sources measure paid leave coverage rates and some debate exists over which source provides the most accurate picture. This post uses the Department of Labor’s 2012 Family Medical Leave Act survey, which surveys workers and worksites on provision and access to paid leave for parental purposes.

 

Lindsey Reichlin is the Research & Program Coordinator at the Institute for Women’s Policy Research and Stephanie Román is the Mariam K. Chamberlain Fellow at the Institute for Women’s Policy Research.

Weighing the Costs and Benefits of Enhanced Paid Sick Days in DC

By Claudia Williams

claudia williamsOn September 17, DC city councilmembers introduced the “Earned Sick and Safe Leave Amendment Act of 2013,” a proposal that would take the current DC paid sick days (PSD) law a step further in providing safeguards to workers in the District. While DC was among the first to pass citywide PSD legislation in 2008, the current law excludes a number of workers, and requires coverage only after workers have been employed by a particular employer for more than one year and 1,000 hours. The proposed amendment to DC’s existing policy, would not only expand protections to even more workers–including most tipped restaurant workers–in the District of Columbia, but also enhance enforcement and outreach efforts to reduce non-compliance reported in June 2013 by the Office of the District of Columbia Auditor.

This week, I testified before the DC City Council and shared findings from IWPR’s analysis of the probable impact of this amendment to DC employers. Using the parameters of the proposed legislation and publicly available data, IWPR researchers estimated some of the anticipated costs and benefits to employees and employers that might result from providing earned sick days to newly covered workers. Our analysis shows that if the amendment is enacted:

  • Employers of newly covered workers can expect to spend $5.60 per worker per week in providing new earned sick days in the District of Columbia (or $5.9 million per year for all newly covered workers).
  • At the same time, providing new earned sick days is expected to yield benefits of $7.9 million—or $7.45 per worker per week—resulting in a net savings for Washington D.C.’s employers of approximately $2 million annually.

While there are certainly costs associated with implementing a new paid sick days policy, IWPR analysis shows that employers can expect see the cost of implementing this new policy more than offset by increased employee productivity, reduced costs associated with less contagion of communicable diseases, and reduced employee turnover.

Apart from these not-insignificant cost savings, there are other benefits to paid sick days that are more difficult to quantify but no less significant. In DC, these benefits are likely to include: improved health and more efficient utilization of health care; improved public health through reduced spread of contagious disease; and reduced expenditures on public assistance programs due to improved family economic security. There is a growing acknowledgement that many workers have financial responsibilities and caregiving responsibilities, a burden that often falls heavily on women workers, and could be eased with better access to paid sick days.

During the hearing at the DC council, many experts–and also workers–presented their testimony on the importance of minimum wage and paid sick days. Experts highlighted that, as we continue recovering from the recession, employee benefits are more crucial than ever. Worker after worker shared their experiences of having to choose between taking care of their and their families’ health, or making ends meet at the end of the month. Waiters and waitresses shared how instead of calling in sick, they showed up to the restaurant with contagious illnesses like the flu or norovirus because they couldn’t afford to take the day off.  Given the research, and the economic realities of many Washingtonians, who benefits from not providing paid sick days to workers?

Claudia Williams is a Research Analyst at the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, specializing in paid sick days and the status of women in the states. Mallory Mpare contributed to this post.

Raising the Tipped Minimum Wage to Reduce Poverty for Women and Families

By Alex Berryhill, IWPR Research Intern

Two women at coffee shopWomen make up over half of the workforce in food preparation and serving related occupations in the restaurant industry – one of the fastest growing sectors today in terms of job creation. According to a recent report released by the Restaurant Opportunities Center (ROC) United, with research from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research and several other organizations, restaurant workers, and especially women in the industry, often face economic insecurity due to low wages.

These workers’ struggles illuminate the need to increase the minimum wage (currently $7.25) and the tipped minimum wage (currently $2.13). A full-time minimum wage position only provides an annual income of about $15,080. According to the Economic Policy Institute, that’s below the poverty line for a family of three, and just barely over the poverty line for a family of two.

Studies show that raising the federal minimum wage—which has not changed since 2009— to just $10.10 per hour would pull more than half of the nation’s working poor out of poverty. About 20 percent of those living under the poverty line actually hold full-time jobs.

These Americans live in poverty not because they are unemployed or unemployable, but because their jobs do not offer adequate benefits and wages to support a family —issues that are particularly prevalent in the restaurant industry.

The federal tipped minimum wage has stagnated at $2.13 an hour since 1991. During this time, inflation has increased the prices paid by wage workers for goods and services approximately 70 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (CPI-W).

An employer is required by law to fill the gap when workers do not earn the minimum wage salary on the job between tips and the tipped minimum wage. But, employers frequently ignore this requirement and allow their tipped workers to earn less than $7.25 per hour, according to the ROC-United report. Among tipped workers surveyed for the report, 13.2 percent told of having their tips misappropriated by employers (for example, having the tips shared with managers).

“If you’re in the restaurant industry in a waitress role, then you depend on tips. If don’t get any tips, you can’t pay the bills,” said one woman surveyed in the ROC-United report.  “I make, on average, $90 a week, $125 on a good week. But, that’s not even making daycare.”

The burden of today’s outdated labor policies falls disproportionately upon women. Women make up 71 percent of the restaurant industry’s servers; 74 percent of tipped restaurant workers earning at or below the minimum wage; and 78 percent of tipped restaurant workers living in poverty.

Increasing the tipped and federal minimum wage would disproportionately benefit women. Research by IWPR in another recent ROC-United report shows that raising the tipped minimum wage to $5.08 would reduce the gender wage gap within the industry by a fifth.  Among the workers who would be lifted out of poverty by increasing the minimum wage to $10.10, about 54 percent would be women. About 82 percent of tipped restaurant workers who would be lifted out of poverty with an increase to the tipped minimum wage would be women.

The challenge of low wages is compounded by the lack of benefits in the restaurant industry – problems that particularly affect workers’ families. There are two million restaurant workers who are mothers, half of whom are single parents. Of those mothers surveyed in the report, the average spent about 35 percent of their weekly wages on child care. Over 90 percent did not receive paid sick days for themselves or their sick children, and about half reported losing much-needed income, and sometimes even their job, as a result of taking time off to care for a sick child.

Without benefits, nor scheduling flexibility, and often an income below the already low minimum wage,   restaurant workers are struggling. Today’s outdated labor policies hurt millions of families and hurt America’s future.

Alex Berryhill is a Research Intern at the Institute for Women’s Policy Research. She is presently a junior at the University of California, Berkeley, majoring in Political Economy and minoring in Public Policy.

Student Parent Helps Launch Women’s Economic Agenda in Congress

Women's Economic Agenda Press Event- 2013.7.18 040

by Stephanie Brown

My name is Stephanie Brown and I recently graduated from Grand Valley State University with a bachelor’s degree in Sociology. However, I was not your average college student. I am a mother to a four-year-old daughter therefore I was considered a student parent. I am originally from the Metro-Detroit area and I got pregnant shortly after I graduated High School in 2008. I was not going to let this challenge stop me from furthering my education. I knew that I needed an education in order to land a decent job so I decided to attend community college for two years. As soon as I completed my general requirements I made the decision to further my education at a University. In the fall of 2010 I transferred to Grand Valley State University and moved to Grand Rapids with my daughter.

Grand Rapids is two and a half hours away from my hometown and family so I knew I was going to need help with my daughter in order to attend school full-time while working. Grand Valley was very helpful with directing me to their available resources for student parents. They gave me a list of affordable apartments around campus and also gave me information on daycare centers in the area. My daughter went to a quality and affordable daycare right on Grand Valley’s campus called the Children’s Enrichment Center during the day so I could work and attend classes full-time. The daycare also provided me with countless resources and created a community that made me feel very comfortable being a student parent. The director encouraged me to write an essay for a scholarship from the women’s center on campus.  I was blessed to receive that scholarship and it helped me purchase my books and school supplies.

If it was not for Grand Valley’s resources I would not have been able to work, raise my daughter, and receive my Bachelor’s degree in 5 years! Because of my education I now hold a full-time position at St. Johns-DA Blodgett as a direct care counselor in a children’s shelter.  I know that I would not have been able to receive my education and the job I have now without the resources available at Grand Valley State University. I am so very grateful for my education and also for the quality of care my child received in the process.

On July 18, 2013 U.S. Congress members launched a new Economic Agenda for Women and Families, focused on issues including pay equity, paid leave, and child care. IWPR brought student parent Stephanie Brown to Washington D.C. to share her story on how child care and other supports helped her attain her college degree. For more information on student parents visit IWPR’s Student Parent Success Initiative.  

Real Benefits for Women Now That DOMA Has Been Struck Down!

This post was originally published on the National Women’s Law Center’s blog. 

Written by Colette Irving, NWLC Intern; Emily Martin, NWLC Vice President and General Counsel; and Lauren Hartz, NWLC Intern. 

Today, the Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which provided that only a marriage between a man and woman would be recognized under federal law. The Court found that this provision of DOMA violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution. This decision is historic in its recognition that the Constitution provides important protection against discrimination against same-sex relationships.

Moreover, this ruling will have a huge practical impact, providing access to important benefits previously denied to same-sex couples. As the Court wrote, “By its great reach, DOMA touches many aspects of married and family life, from the mundane to the profound.” The practical impact of this victory is particularly significant for women. Women make up about 53 percent of LGBT adults and 51 percent of same-sex couples, and women in same-sex couples are more likely than men to marry their partners. In fact, the Williams Institute found that 62 percent of same-sex couples who married or acquired some other type of formal legal status were female, in the eight states for which data is available.

Because women are more likely than men to be poor, female same-sex couples are at particular risk of financial instability. The Williams Institute compiled data from the 2000 Census and concluded that female same-sex couples face poverty at a rate of 6.9 percent. That rate is 4.0 percent for male same-sex couples and 5.4 percent for different sex couples [PDF]. Further, LGBT women are more likely than men to become parents and LGBT parents are more likely to live close to poverty. In striking down DOMA, and granting married same-sex couples access to federal benefits that provide increased financial stability, the Supreme Court has made it easier for these women, and all married same-sex couples, to make ends meet.

Twelve states give same-sex couples the freedom to marry, and approximately one-fifth of the U.S. population lives in a state that provides this freedom to marry or recognizes out-of-state marriages of same-sex couples. Here are just a few of the benefits and legal protections married women in same-sex relationships living in these states should expect to access:

  • Social Security: Certain benefits are available to the spouses, surviving spouses, and divorced spouses of workers covered by Social Security. Because of DOMA, in order to receive those benefits, spouses had to be different [PDF] sex spouses legally married in their state. While we may have to wait to see exactly how the federal government will proceed in implementing the decision today, all couples whose marriages are legally recognized in the state where they live should be able to receive these benefits.
  • Tax on Employer-Provided Health Benefits: Health insurance premiums paid by an employer for an employee and her spouse are usually excluded from that employee’s gross income. That means the employee does not pay taxes on the amount her employer contributes. Because of DOMA, same-sex spouses could not avail themselves of this tax benefit [PDF], which could mean $1,000 more paid in taxes [PDF] each year for these families. Now, all employees who are legally married in the state in which they live should be able to exclude these contributions from their income for federal tax purposes.
  • FMLA Leave: The Family and Medical Leave Act entitles employees to job-protected leave to care for children, spouses, and parents. DOMA has prevented same-sex married couples from taking FMLA leave to care for each other, even when they live in states that recognize their marriages. By striking down DOMA, the Supreme Court makes FMLA available to these couples.
  • Federal Employees Health Benefits: The Federal Employees Health Benefits Program provides health insurance to federal employees and members of their family, including their spouse and children. DOMA denied this insurance coverage to same-sex spouses of federal employees. The Supreme Court’s decision means that the federal government will provide health coverage to same-sex spouses whose home states recognize their marriages.
  • Immigration: Family unification is the cornerstone of our nation’s immigration policy. The Immigration and Naturalization Act allows United States citizens to petition for their children, spouses, and parents to be classified as “immediate relatives,” making them eligible for an immigrant visa and lawful permanent residence in this country. DOMA changed the federal government’s longstanding practice of looking to the law of the state where the marriage occurred to define spouse. This prevented gay and lesbian citizens from sponsoring their foreign partners for immigration benefits even when they were legally married under the law of the state where the marriage occurred. The Court’s decision restores this critical opportunity to bi-national same-sex couples.

The Court’s historic decision has tremendous significance for millions of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered Americans in affirming their right to equal protection under the law. This victory is important not only for its symbolism but also for its real-world impact. Now many same-sex married couples can access these critical federal benefits on equal footing.

Shining a Light on the Wage Gap

HHFifty years after the Equal Pay Act, employment discrimination persists but is harder to see.

By Dr. Heidi Hartmann

When the Equal Pay Act (EPA) was passed 50 years ago, discrimination was, in many ways, openly accepted in the workplace and women were expected to earn less than men in the same jobs. The EPA signed by President John F. Kennedy on June 10, 1963, helped to reduce this type of blatant employment discrimination, but it is still present and the wage gap persists.

The Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) was founded 25 years ago, at the end of the 1980s, the decade which saw the most sustained narrowing of the gender wage gap since passage of the EPA. Between 1981 and 1990, the gender wage gap closed by more than ten percentage points. In the most recent decade, progress has stalled and the gap narrowed by no more than one percentage point.

There is no single cause for the pay gap. Jobs dominated by women pay less than jobs dominated by men. Over their lifetimes, women still take off more time from paid work for family care than men. Women also still face subtle—and not so subtle—discrimination when they do the similar work to men. Direct discrimination is still estimated to account for between one quarter and 40 percent of the wage gap, according to several reviews of social science research.

Employers can no longer advertise jobs at different rates for men and women. But paying women less for similar performance, giving women less access to career-enhancing opportunities, and making it harder for women to get promoted are practices that continue to hinder progress towards equal pay.

Tackling those types of employment discrimination is surprisingly difficult because employees may still be fired simply for discussing their earnings with a colleague or coworker. In an age when information sharing has become widespread and hearing about a major life event over social networking is not uncommon, exchanging pay information remains frowned upon by many employers. Pay secrecy allows disparities, discrimination, and unequal pay to hide under the rug.

President Kennedy hands out pens at the White House signing of the Equal Pay Act on June 10, 1963.  Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

President John F. Kennedy hands out pens at the White House signing of the Equal Pay Act on June 10, 1963. Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

According to an IWPR/Rockefeller survey, half of all workers (51 percent of women and 47 percent of men) report that the discussion of wage and salary information is either discouraged or prohibited and/or could lead to punishment. The Equal Pay Act does not protect workers against retaliation for sharing salary information with their co-workers. In the public sector, where pay information is publicly available, a smaller pay gap exists compared to the private sector.

The 2009 Lily Ledbetter Act provides that every paycheck that pays a woman less than a male colleague for equal or similar work can be challenged in court, but the act did not address pay secrecy. Ledbetter worked for a company that prohibited the discussion of one’s salary. After 18 years on the job, Ledbetter sued when, in an anonymous note from a coworker, she received evidence that she was being paid unfairly. The Paycheck Fairness Act was introduced in the last Congress, but failed to pass to a vote in the Senate. This bill would have protected workers against retaliation for sharing pay information.

Women don’t have the time to wait to earn the same as men because their families need the money now. According to the most recent estimate from IWPR, however, the wage gap is not expected to close until 2057. Many women working today will never see equal pay, harming their long-term earnings and leaving them with lower retirement income.

In an age where women in the United States are almost half the workforce, are more likely to gain higher levels of education than men, and increasingly are the main or co-breadwinner in families, we cannot wait for another 44 years for the gender wage gap to be finally relegated to the history books.

Dr. Heidi Hartmann is President of the Institute for Women’s Policy Research. 

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