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Socioeconomic Supports in Job Training Programs: How You Can Help Determine their Value

This post originally appeared in the August/September 2015 edition of NAWDP Advantage, the newsletter of the National Association of Workforce Development Professionals. September is designated as Workforce Development Month.

By Rachel Linn, Communications Associate, and Cynthia Hess, Study Director

Job training can provide an entry into family-sustaining jobs and careers, yet many adults face economic, scheduling, and other challenges that make it difficult for them to enroll and succeed in job training programs. Socioeconomic supports—or wraparound services, such as child care assistance, access to public benefits, and transportation or housing assistance—can help adults, particularly those with caregiving responsibilities, to complete job training programs that will ultimately improve their economic standing.

Socioeconomic supports, as a route to job training access and success, are especially important for women, who increasingly serve as breadwinners for their families, but still face a pay gap. The Institute for Women’s Policy Research found that as of 2013, women were the primary or co-breadwinner in half of families with children under age 18 in the United States — yet women continue to earn less, and experience higher poverty than comparable men.

Evaluation research points to the importance of socioeconomic support services for job training completion and success. An evaluation of nine sectoral programs found that supportive services were often necessary to help participants complete job training and obtain jobs. In particular, Project QUEST, a community-based workforce development program in San Antonio, had higher completion rates than other training programs of similar duration, which the evaluator attributed to the strong support system that Project QUEST provides. An evaluation of the outcomes of participants in three job training programs in Maryland, Missouri, and New Mexico that implement an approach developed by the Center for Working Families (which bundles core services for participants) found that integrated service delivery was associated with the completion of job training or degree programs, as well as job retention and advancement. In all of the programs, the highest achievers were more likely to have received wraparound services, compared with all other participants.

Despite anecdotal evidence and some studies pointing to the importance of wraparound supports for job training participants, little is known about how many job training programs offer supports of different types and which supports best meet the needs of low-income women, who typically have more caregiving responsibilities than comparable men. IWPR recently launched a research initiative to address this gap. “Socioeconomic Supports and Women’s Job Training Success,” seeks to improve knowledge about the landscape of socioeconomic support provision within the U.S. workforce development system and stimulate national dialogue about the importance of these supports in promoting job training success.

Funded by the Walmart Foundation, the initiative will use a variety of research methods—including a literature review, expert interviews, a promising practices study, and online surveys of administrators and participants from job training programs—to gather and examine information on the prevalence of socioeconomic supports in job training programs, their perceived effectiveness, and promising practices in service support delivery. The project will produce a series of research products and hold outreach activities to promote dialogue among program leaders, advocates, policymakers, and workforce development researchers.

The project aims to provide information that can help programs, and the workforce development system as a whole, effectively target their investments in socioeconomic supports. To help with this study, IWPR is seeking input from professionals in the field as well as job training participants. Please contact Rachel Linn if you would like to participate in a survey, as a part of this national study, or have suggestions for programs that are effectively providing socioeconomic supports.

Equal Pay for Women Can Cut Poverty in Half, Boost Wages Significantly, AND Grow the Economy. Can Any Other Policy Lever Do That?

by Heidi Hartmann, Ph.D.

Every September, the U.S. Census Bureau releases its update on income and poverty in the United States. I—along with many other economists, policy wonks, data geeks, and others—impatiently refresh the website to learn whether there has been any improvement in men’s and women’s earnings, the wage gap, or the poverty rate. In recent years, the significance of each release has been characterized by its insignificance: since 2007, there has not been a statistically significant narrowing of the gender wage gap, and between 2013 and 2014, there was not a statistically significant difference in the poverty rate.  Moreover, adjusted for inflation, the last ten years have seen virtually no increase in women’s earnings, so women are now experiencing what men have experienced for more than three decades—the failure of real wages to grow.

According to the new Census data, women now earn 79 cents for every dollar a man earns for full-time, year-round work; actually that’s 78.6 cents compared with a new estimate for the prior year of 78.3 cents, a small gain indeed.  The gap is even wider for most women of color, with Black women earning only 59.8 cents on the white man’s dollar, and Hispanic women only 54.6 cents on the white man’s dollar. By projecting the rate of progress from 1960 forward, the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) has found that women will not see equal pay until 2059, one year longer than IWPR’s previous projection. As a clever segment on The Daily Show noted, wage equality for women will take longer to achieve than flying cars or 3D-printed human organs. For an economy that left the Great Recession behind six years ago, this stagnation is beyond frustrating.

Such a wide gap has compound effects over a woman’s lifetime: the typical woman will lose $530,000 over the course of her lifetime due to the wage gap; a college educated woman will lose $800,000. For an individual woman, this is an incredible, undeserved reduction in her lifetime earnings, compromising her ability to save for assets like a house or retirement fund or simply to make ends meet.

For families, the gender wage gap can make the difference between living below or above the poverty line, having funds for recreation and vacations or having none, having access to high-quality child care, schools, and colleges, or only being able to afford poorer quality alternatives or no pre-kindergarten or post-secondary education at all.

Equal Pay_PovertyFor the economy overall, unequal pay is holding back economic growth. IWPR estimates that nearly 60 percent of women would gain pay if they were paid the same as men with similar qualifications and hours of work.  Added across the U.S. economy, these gains amount to 2.9 percent of GDP, a growth rate equivalent to adding another state the size of Virginia. (This type of estimate assumes, of course, that, because of discrimination and other factors, women are currently paid below the level of their productivity; it also assumes no change in women’s education or work hours, which would surely increase if women could expect to earn equal pay.) Each woman, including those who would gain nothing, would earn $6,251 more annually on average, reducing poverty by half for all families with a working woman as well as working women who live alone.

But ensuring that women receive equal pay is not as easy as just paying women more for their work (though that would be a good start!). Businesses and policymakers both have a role to play to achieve the benefits of equal pay well before 2059. You can read my recommendations for how private and public policies can narrow, and eventually eliminate, the gender wage gap over at Fortune. (Hint: we need to address wage inequality by bringing up the bottom of the pay scale, and we also need to close the gender care gap.) It’s time we start taking achieving equal pay seriously.

Heidi Hartmann, Ph.D., is an economist, MacArthur Fellow, and president of the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, a nonprofit research institute in Washington, DC.

How Partners are Using IWPR’s Status of Women in the States Data

By Sarah Blugis, Communications Intern and Rachel Linn, Communications Associate

IWPR partnered with over 50 local, state, and national organizations for Status of Women in the States: 2015. Using Status of Women data, policymakers and advocates reach out to the media and raise awareness about women’s needs in the states and communities to advance the interest of women and their families.

The Seattle-based Women’s Funding Alliance is using findings from the Status of Women in the States to focus attention on women’s leadership and economic opportunity in Washington State. In addition to giving interviews to NPR affiliate KPLU and The Seattle Times, Women’s Funding Alliance staff traveled throughout Washington to share the data with employers, policymakers, program providers, funders, and advocates.

The Women’s Fund of Southeastern Massachusetts localized IWPR’s data for counties in their area, highlighting poverty rates in nearby cities, and held a press conference with the Mayor of New Bedford, MA. The group also sat down with local editorial boards to present data from the Status of Women in the States report, resulting in stories about the gender wage gap in the Fall River Herald and an interview with WBZ News Radio.

In Utah, the local YWCA issued a press release that generated media coverage on local TV, the local NPR affiliate KUER Utah, and in the Salt Lake Tribune. The Permanent Commission on the Status of Women in Connecticut has also used the data to attract coverage from the Hartford Business Journal, WTNH TV,, and

In Pittsburgh, the Women and Girls Foundation of Southwest Pennsylvania uses the Status of Women in the States report to inform their advocacy and grantmaking strategy. Their annual GirlGov program is designed to provide local girls with the opportunity to learn, first hand, about civics, government, philanthropy, community involvement, women’s history, and leadership. IWPR’s data on women in political leadership in the state was used to contextualize the importance of the program in a segment on WESA, Pittsburgh’s NPR affiliate. The Women and Girls Foundation have also presented findings to their board of directors and donors and hosted briefings for members of the media, policymakers, and advocates to increase investment in women and girls’ health, education, and economic security in the region.

IWPR hopes that its partners across the country will continue using the Status of Women in the States report and accompanying interactive website ( to inform their own advocacy, educate their communities, and advance the status of women in their states and the country overall.

Foreword to Get to the Bricks: The Experiences of Black Women from New Orleans Public Housing after Hurricane Katrina

by Heidi Hartmann, Ph.D.

This foreword appears in the IWPR report, Get to the Bricks: The Experiences of Black Women from New Orleans Public Housing after Hurricane Katrina.

D506 thumbThis report is the culmination of a five-year research project exploring the experiences of women who lived in public housing when Hurricane Katrina made landfall in 2005 and the levees protecting the city of New Orleans failed.  It presents a comprehensive analysis of the interview responses of 184 low-income black women who were living in “The Big Four”—four large housing projects within the city of New Orleans, known as “the Bricks”—and who were displaced by the twin disasters of the hurricane and the flooding. The analysis is based on in-depth ethnographic interviews with the women conducted over a two-year period from 2008 to 2010, when many of them remained displaced in other cities while some had returned to find a different city than the one they had known.

The housing these women had been living in, and which had remained structurally sound during and after the storm, was demolished as part of an effort by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Housing Authority of New Orleans (HANO) to replace large public housing projects with mixed-income developments. City services were no longer conveniently concentrated near public housing, and public transit was much curtailed compared with before the storm. For those in other cities, obtaining information about what services and benefits were availabe to them and living in areas with only sparse public transportation were often confusing and disheartening and presented barriers to their ability to settle their children in schools and find employment.  Some displaced women and their children found good opportunities in their new cities, but others longed to return to New Orleans.  All of them experienced the breakup of their long standing family and community networks that had provided them with virutally uncountable forms of support—from child and elder care to sharing food and transportation and job leads.

The failure to coordinate services, to plan for the needs of a vulnerable population, to keep families and neighborhood networks together as much as possible, both during the evacuation and throughout their resettlement (which often required more than one move), and to find ways to enable all those who desired to return to New Orleans to do so constitute a third disaster, one like the failure of the levees of human origin.

Finally, during the period these families were struggling with the immediate aftermath of survival, displacement, and relocation, the United States was also experiencing the worst of the Great Recession with its long and slow recovery, the longest reession since the Great Depression in the 1930s, consituting yet a fourth disaster confronting these women and their families.

Yet through it all, these women showed courage, determination, and resiliency as they sought to keep their children and themselves safe and move on with their lives. Theirs is a remarkable story and I invite you to hear their voices in Get to the Bricks: The Experiences of Black Women from New Orleans Public Housing after Hurricane Katrina.

IWPR researchers, under the able leadership of Dr. Jane Henrici, former study director and now senior research fellow at IWPR, interviewed these women in their homes or other locations in New Orleans, Baton Rouge, and Houston. The Katrina disapora spread well beyond these relativley nearby cities to virtually every state in the nation. The Katrina migration will likely remain one of the largest and longest lasting in American history that stemmed originally from a natural disaster, compounded as it was by the disasters of human engineering. As such, Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath, as seen through these women’s eyes, have much to teach us about how we can improve public policy and disaster planning in the years to come.

In addition to Dr. Henrici and the many researchers who assisted her in this work, I would like to single out for thanks Prof. Kai Erikson of Yale University, who invited IWPR to join the Social Science Research Council’s Katrina project and to participate in its deliberations, as well as Josh Jarrett, Program Officer, and Hillary Pennington, Director of Education, Postsecondary Success & Special Initiatives, at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, who generously provided the funding to conduct the interviews and analyze the results.  Dr. Avis Jones-DeWeever, a former IWPR study director, also deserves special thanks for her early interviews in post-disaster New Orleans, which alerted us to the depth of the struggles these women were facing.  For all of us at IWPR, this report is a fitting culmination to the research we began on the Monday after the hurricane hit, producing many fact sheets, briefing papers, book chapters, and short reports detailing, through both quantitative and qualitative analysis, the conditions faced by the women of New Orleans both before and after the storm.  We wish for them and their families a secure and successful future. And it is our hope that their voices will have lasting impact on public policy.

Heidi Hartmann, Ph.D., is the President and CEO of the Institute for Women’s Policy Research. Read the full report, Get to the Bricks: The Experiences of Black Women from New Orleans Public Housing after Hurricane Katrina, at

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.

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