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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.

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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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.

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.


Top 5 Findings of 2011

Women with lightbulbsby Caroline Dobuzinskis, with Jocelyn Fischer and Rhiana Gunn-Wright.

In 2011, IWPR released several important findings on relevant topics such as the continuing impact of the recession, increased reliance on Social Security among older Americans, and the value of paid sick days for improving public health. Read the top findings below and continue to follow IWPR or sign up for our e-alerts to stay informed on our latest research on women, families, and communities.

1. During the recovery, men gained more jobs overall than women. Contrary to the image presented by a new, widely-panned sitcom, the recovery is not proving to be easier for female job seekers. Overall, men have regained one out of three jobs lost in the recession, while women regained one of every four jobs they lost. But the last quarter of 2011 saw women making some gains in the job market: men and women had equal job growth in the past three months at 206,000 jobs each.

2. Many Americans are living paycheck to paycheck and some cannot afford to put food on the table. Last September, IWPR released findings from the IWPR/Rockefeller Survey of Economic Security showing that only 43 percent of women and 61 percent of men would have the savings to pay for living expenses for a period of two months. In households with more than one person who experienced unemployment for one month or longer in the two years prior to the survey, 27 percent of women and 20 percent of men went hungry because they could not afford food.

3. Americans strongly support Social Security and have grown increasingly reliant on the program in the last decade. A large majority of Americans (74 percent of all women and 69 percent of men in the IWPR/Rockefeller survey) say they  don’t mind paying Social Security taxes for the benefits they will receive when they retire. Between 1999 and 2009, the number of men aged 65 and older relying on Social Security for at least 80 percent of their incomes increased by 48 percent to equal more than a third of all men aged 65 and older in 2009. The increase for comparable women was 26 percent to equal half of older women in 2009.

4. The number of on-campus child care centers has declined and presently can only meet five percent of the child care needs of student parents. There are 3.9 million student parents pursuing postsecondary education in the United States, 57 percent of whom are also low-income adults. Access to affordable, on-campus child care has decreased, partly due to the increase of for-profit postsecondary institutions.

5. Paid sick days would reduce emergency department visits–saving $1 billion in health care costs. Access to paid sick days would eliminate 1.3 million emergency department visits per year and would save $500 million to taxpayers through public health insurance costs because regular doctors’ office visits would substitute for expensive emergency room care. Informed by research from organizations such as the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, paid sick days legislation gained significant momentum across the country last year.

Caroline Dobuzinskis is the Communications Manager at the Institute for Women’s Policy Research. Jocelyn Fischer is Assistant to the President and Rhiana Gunn-Wright is this year’s Mariam K. Chamberlain fellow.

Top 5 Recent IWPR Findings

By Jennifer Clark

When IWPR posted a “Top 5” list of our most revealing research findings in December, we were so encouraged by the level of interest our readers showed in the post, that we decided to turn it into a regular roundup. Although intending to compile another “Top 5” list, the first four months of 2011 were so action-packed that we couldn’t limit ourselves to just five. From Social Security to employment discrimination, here are the top IWPR findings from 2011 (so far):

1.       Without access to Social Security, 58 percent of women and 48 percent of men above the age of 75 would be living below the poverty line.  If you watch cable news, read reputable newspapers, or even tune in to late night television, you would get the impression that the Social Security system, which helped keep 14 million Americans over the age of 65 out of poverty in 2009, is broken. Social Security does not contribute to the deficit and is forbidden by law to borrow money to pay for benefits.  In fact, Social Security is actually running a surplus—a big one—at $2.6 trillion, an amount that is projected to increase to $4.2 trillion by 2025.

2.       Although many groups advocate for immigrant rights at the local, state, or national levels, very few advocate specifically for the rights of immigrant women. A new IWPR report, Organizations Working with Latina Immigrants: Resources and Strategies for Change, on the challenges facing Latina immigrants in the United States, explores the specific challenges faced by immigrant women—higher poverty rates than their male counterparts and greater risk of sexual, domestic, and workplace violence—and spotlights the organizations that are trying to help.

3.       The gender wage gap has narrowed only 13 percentage points in the last 55 years. With the ratio of women’s to men’s earnings stagnating at 77 percent in recent years, IWPR projected that, if current trends continue, the gender wage gap will finally close in 2056—45 years from now. In terms of how the gender wage gap breaks down by occupation, IWPR also found that women earn less than men in 107 out of 111 occupational categories, including female-dominated professions like teaching and nursing.

4.       Women’s career and life choices do not completely explain  the gender wage gap. IWPR’s new report, Ending Sex and Race Discrimination in the Workplace: Legal Interventions That Push the Envelope—a review of over 500 sex and race discrimination settlements –offers distressing evidence of the factors that keep women’s median earnings lower than men and keep women out of better paid jobs. These include discrimination in hiring, sexual harassment of women trying to work in male-dominated jobs, preventing women from getting the training that is required for promotion (or only requiring that training of women), and paying women less for the same work than men. The report finds that ensuring transparency in hiring, compensation, and promotion decisions is the most effective means for addressing discrimination.

5.       On-campus child care centers meet only five percent of the child care needs of student parents. IWPR’s report, Improving Child Care Access to Promote Postsecondary Success Among Low-Income Parents, explores the challenges facing 3.9 million student-parents, 57 percent of whom are also low-income adults, enrolled in colleges across the U.S. Costly off-campus care centers—in many states the cost exceeds median income—are unrealistic for many, leaving some student parents devoting up to ing 70 hours per  week to jobs and caregiving, leaving little time for classes or studying. Postsecondary education provides a path to firmer economic stability for low-income families, but without child care on campus, the path often seems more like an uphill climb.

6.       Both businesses and employees in San Francisco are generally in support of paid sick days, as the nation’s first paid sick days legislation sees benefits four years after passage. San Francisco’s Paid Sick Leave Ordinance (PSLO) went into effect in 2007.  Four years later, IWPR analyzed the effects of the ordinance in the new report, San Francisco’s Paid Sick Leave Ordinance: Outcomes for Employers and Employees, which surveyed over 700 employers and nearly 1,200 employees.  Despite claims from opposing groups that this kind of legislation is bad for small businesses, IWPR’s survey found that two-thirds of employers in San Francisco support the law, including over 60 percent of employers in the hotel and food service industry.

Jennifer Clark is the Development Coordinator with the Institute for Women’s Policy Research.

College Students with Children Need Campuses with Child Care

By Elisa Garcia

The Obstacles Facing Student Parents

For many young women, including myself, the path from grade school to the working world follows an unambiguous narrative, from earning solid grades in high school to gaining admission to a top university to eventually beginning our career of choice or pursuing an advanced degree. Ready to reap the benefits of our mothers’ hard-fought battles for women’s rights—and in the wake of data showing that more women than men pursue higher education, and that young, childless, urban women out-earn their male peers—it seems no obstacle can prevent young women from achieving their goals.

Unfortunately, for undergraduate students who are also parents, and particularly single mothers, the path is not so clear. Despite the fact that there are 3.9 million student parents enrolled as undergraduates in colleges and universities (equal to nearly one-quarter of the 17 million undergraduate students across the country), they face significant barriers to postsecondary success, and institutions are ill-prepared to provide for their needs. According to a recent IWPR report, Improving Child Care Access to Promote Postsecondary Success Among Low-Income Parents,  student parents are more likely to be low-income and working full-time than undergraduate students as a whole.

About half of married student parents and over 40 percent of single student parents spend 40 or more hours per week working, and parents must also devote a significant portion of their time to caregiving. In fact, 68 percent of married parents and 56 percent of single parents spend 30 hours or more per week on care. Further, only about 10 percent of single parents spend no time on care, compared to 60 percent of childless students, and women are more likely than men to spend long hours on care. Some student parents end up spending 70 hours per week or more on their jobs and caretaking duties—attending classes and studying seems like an impossible added burden.

Child Care Crucial to Success of Student Parents

Child care is therefore a critical resource to alleviate some of the stress of caretaking, and ease the strain of juggling competing priorities and obligations. According to surveys conducted at Indiana University Bloomington and the University of Michigan, having access to care is one of student parents’ top concerns. Child care facilities not only allow parents peace of mind and give them more time to devote to schoolwork and earning income, the facilities can also help increase retention among a group that is likely to drop out of school. Fifty-seven percent of student parents are low-income, meaning that off-campus care centers— which in many states cost more than average annual rent payments—are not realistic options for many student parents. Though often regarded as a lower-cost alternative to four year universities, community college is often unaffordable. With the added cost of child care, it may be unattainable for many parents.

Child care is one of the most effective ways that colleges and universities can help their student parents to earn a degree, yet most fail to provide on-campus care centers, much less affordable, high-quality care.

Only 49 to 57 percent of two- and four-year public colleges and universities, and a dismal 7 to 9 percent of two- and four-year private colleges and universities offer child care facilities. In fact, according to IWPR calculations, colleges and universities are only providing five percent of the child care slots that student parents need. Even when parents attend universities that offer care, the facilities are less than ideal: many have long waiting lists, few centers provide infant care, and even fewer schools offer care at night or during the summer.

Breaking the Cycle

By not supporting student parents with accessible and affordable child care, colleges and universities are denying a significant fraction of their community a chance to earn an advanced degree and obtain the types of jobs afforded to other undergraduates.

And high-quality child care not only affects parents—research indicates that low-income children significantly benefit from quality early education, and that children of college graduates are in turn more likely to attend college. Supporting low-income student parents is thus an effective way of breaking the cycle of poverty for many families

The policy implications of these findings are clear: by funding and supporting high-quality, campus-based child care, colleges and universities could help to ensure the success of one of their most vulnerable populations, as well as the generations that will follow. Many student parents enter college with heavier burdens than their peers; they deserve as clear a path to family security through a degree and career as anyone else.

For more information, please visit IWPR’s Student Parent Success Initiative webpage.

Elisa Garcia is the Office and Program Coordinator with the Institute for Women’s Policy Research.

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