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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.

How Does Your State Rank?

KIDSCOUNT Data CenterThe 2011 KIDS COUNT Data Book is now available.

By Mallory Mpare

The 2011 KIDS COUNT Data Book (a project of the Annie E. Casey Foundation) was released today. Similar to IWPR’s Status of Women in the States initiative, the Data Book provides state rankings based on key indicators of child well-being. The message this year, “America’s Children, America’s Challenge: Promoting Opportunity for the Next Generation,” focuses on how children and their families are coping post recession. This edition includes data on the status of children with at least one unemployed parent in 2010 as well as data on children affected by foreclosure since 2007.

Past IWPR research shows that early care and education programs are crucial to a thriving economy. The KIDS COUNT Data Book not only serves as a comprehensive resource on the status of children in the United States, but also provides data on the role of investing in early childhood programs in order for the next generation to succeed.

IWPR joins the Annie E. Casey Foundation in inviting you to explore the findings and see how your state ranks!

Mallory Mpare is the Communications Assistant with the Institute for Women’s Policy Research.

The Promise of Postsecondary Education for Parents

by Robert Drago, Ph.D.

Education, and particularly higher education, provides many individuals with hope for a better future. The power of this simple truism was brought home  to me while working on Striking a Balance, when I discovered that the union for hotel workers in San Francisco (HERE Local 2) had developed a scholarship program to fund prep courses for college admissions tests. The catch? The program was for the daughters and sons of union members, and not the members themselves. The members are mainly immigrant women, and their vision for a brighter future involves higher education for their children.

A new fact sheet from IWPR describes a related group—students who are also parents. Anyone who has been a parent knows that it is a lot of work, especially when children are young. To make a commitment to higher education at the same time is nothing short of heroic. And those who do so are not starting on a level playing field: compared to non-parent students, the student parents have lower average college admissions test scores, are less likely to have received four years of English courses in high school, and more often take remedial courses, with each of these disadvantages being most pronounced for single parents. The student parents are also likely to come from families in which their own parents had not received an advanced degree, so have fewer academic role models. And just to top it off, the student parents are around twice as likely as the non-parents to work for pay at least 40 hours per week (over 40 percent of single and married parents do this).

Not surprisingly, this story has the same gender twist found in HERE Local 2: three-quarters of single parents in college are women, and single mothers are twice as likely to report spending at least 30 hours per week caring for dependents.

I don’t envy those who take on the triple burden of parenting, school and full-time employment. But I do understand why they voluntarily make such extraordinary commitments. Like the members of HERE Local 2, higher education offers the student parents hope for a brighter future—for themselves and their children. They deserve our applause and support.

Robert Drago, Ph.D., is the Director of Research with the Institute for Women’s Policy Research.

A Woman’s Face on the Minimum Wage Issue

Senator Kennedy and Vicky Lovell
From left to right: Entmacher, Lovell, Gandy, Kennedy and Stabenow (Photo by Michelle Schafer)

On January 24th, Senator Kennedy held a press conference in the Russell Senate Office Building. Joined by Senators Stabenow and Klobuchar as well as Kim Gandy, President of NOW, Dr. Vicky Lovell of IWPR and Joan Entmacher, Vice President of the National Women’s Law Center, the press conference focused on putting a woman’s face on the minimum wage issue.
In the wake of the Senate delaying a vote on the House measure to raise the minimum wage, Senator Kennedy wanted to make sure the public understands the urgency of the issue. The minimum wage, as all the speakers noted, affects women and families more than any other groups. As Dr. Lovell presented (view the PDF of her statement here), the nearly 8 million women working at or near minimum wage are currently only earning about $10,712 per year or $893 a month. At this rate a woman would have to work three jobs to support a family of 3 or more without living in poverty, and that’s pretty much impossible.
Two of the Senators noted that they remembered what it was like working a minimum wage job, and each commented how lucky he or she was to not have to work for such low wages. Senator Klobuchar spoke about women she’d recently spoken with who were working minimum wage jobs and had a very hard time scraping together enough money to put their children through college. All the speakers were very disappointed that the vote was being put on hold, although Senator Kennedy was proud to announce that five Republican Senators had joined with the Democrats in support of the measure.
Kim Gandy summed up the sentiments of the day clearly when she stated, “paying a living wage is an investment in the future of the United States. Good for hardworking families, good for business, and good for the country.” Hopefully the bill will make it to the floor and be passed clear of any tax cuts for big businesses. It is wonderful to see Senators Kennedy, Stabenow, and Klobuchar along with 51 other Senators, come together to vote for working women in America.
– Elisabeth Crum

Celebration for Ann Richards and Nancy Pelosi

Nancy Pelosi
Photo by Elisabeth Crum at the reception celebrating The People’s House.

Let me share my impressions of the Women’s Tea held in honor of Nancy Pelosi and in memory of Ann Richards on January 3, 2007, the day before Rep. Pelosi was elected Speaker of the House. What makes me happiest about Ms. Pelosi making a “big deal” on becoming speaker is her willingness to own her election as a triumph for women and of the women’s movement that fought first for women to get the vote and then to enter the workforce in large numbers and then to hold political office. When speaking she frequently pumps her arm in the Rosie the Riveter pose, which appeared on the large buttons made for the event (and which has previously appeared on other political paraphernalia). The very fact that she held a tea for women makes me deeply appreciative of her understanding of the importance of this moment for women in the United States.
At the women’s tea, held in the Mellon Auditorium in a federal building now used by the Environmental Protection Agency, I was first struck by how well the party was set up–like a real English tea party writ large. Tea and coffee in silver urns, real china, cucumber and other tea sandwiches, petits fours, pastries, and most importantly scones with clotted cream and jam! As someone said coming in while the hall was still empty–this looks just like Nancy. Known for her graciousness, Rep. Pelosi’s party reflected a desire to treat the guests well.
The guests included many women who head or work in women’s organizations, supporters from California and elsewhere, and many members of Congress. There were quite a few seats available at small round tables the better to enjoy your tea. As a veteran of many receptions, etc., in Washington, some of which boast no more than warm soda in paper cups, this event was refreshingly civilized. The spirit of pure joy is hard to describe.
Those of us who have toiled mostly in the dark the past several years on women’s issues could not, I think, quite believe our good fortune. Here was a woman being elevated to an amazingly powerful position in America who was not afraid to, even happy to, acknowledge her debt to the women’s movement and to generations of women who fought to make her election to that position possible. Many of the people in the room, of course, had worked hard to elect a Democratic majority in the House of Representatives, and especially in the last few weeks before November 7, knew that Ms. Pelosi would become the Speaker, but it was not really possible to imagine beforehand the sheer joy of it as it came to be.
It was not unlike the signing of the Family and Medical Leave Act in February 1993 in the Rose Garden very early on in the Clinton Administration as dozens of people poured into the White House for the first time in twelve years. Yes, people had worked hard to pass that bill in Congress three times (twice vetoed by Pres George Bush the father) and many also worked to elect President Clinton. We even knew that once President Clinton was elected that it would likely become the first major law he would sign, but still it would have been impossible to predict how wonderful that felt when it actually happened.
Rep. Rosa De Lauro, like Rep. Pelosi an Italian-American, served as emcee. A fabulous speaker, she also spoke eloquently about the importance of this moment for women, as well as the importance of their Italian American and Catholic background and the support of their families. She also spoke admiringly of Ann Richards, who served as Governor of Texas for one term and will be remembered by many for her remarks at the Democratic convention in 1992, when she described George Bush (#41) as having been born with a sliver foot in his mouth. She was much more than a fiery orator exceptionally good at the pithy one-liner. At this event, she was remembered by her very well-spoken granddaughter, Lily Adams, a Stanford University student and daughter of Cecile Richards, who heads the Planned Parenthood Federation, as well as by a short video about her life.
I got to know Ann Richards at the Aspen Institute when we both were members of the Domestic Policy Strategy Committee. Ann was one of the smartest people I have ever met; she frequently gave me good advice and I miss her very much. Would that we could have benefited from her shrewd political skills and wisdom a few years longer. As her granddaughter said to me afterward, they regret that they didn’t write down every word of the advice she gave them over the years.
Nancy Pelosi’s granddaughter, Madeline a second grader, read a short letter to her grandmother “Mimi” saying that she was happy her grandmother got this good job because it meant many other women would also be able to get good jobs. That too was followed by a short video about Ms. Pelosi. Then Ms. Pelosi spoke, calling up all the members of Congress present to stand with her on the stage. In her remarks, she previewed several of the themes she would use over the next few days. She thanked everyone for their hard work, acknowledged all her supporters, family members–especially her mother, several women leaders in California and nationally, including some like Molly Yard, past president of NOW, who are no longer with us.
Her remarks hit just the right note and were not too long. And she stayed afterward to allow anyone who wanted to, to take their photo with her. I of course forgot my camera (as I always do!). The program closed with a beautiful rendition of “What a Wonderful World” sung by a young man, Elijah Lawrence (10 years old), son of John Lawrence, Ms. Pelosi’s chief of staff, and Deborah Phillips, a well-known child development expert at Georgetown University.
As perhaps you can guess from the line-up of speakers at this event, the theme of the event was children. In her remarks, Ms. Pelosi stated that improving the lives of children in the United States would be her goal as Speaker. It previewed her unprecedented call to all the children in the chamber on January 4th to come forward as she presided over the House for the first time as Speaker.
On the one hand, this focus on children seems to come out of nowhere since it is not included in the 100 hours agenda and as a member of Congress Ms. Pelosi has not been especially known for work on children or women’s issues. Nancy Duff Campbell pointed out to me that Ms. Pelosi noted three separate areas that need to be addressed: child care, early childhood development, and education.
Ms. Pelosi spoke eloquently about how women’s advance in the work force has been met by a policy gap — no or not enough child care — limiting women’s opportunities as a result. Nowadays as several prominent, male executives have seen the light on early childhood development, we hear more about young children’s brain development than we do about the need to ensure children have good care while their mothers work, so it was refreshing to hear the future Speaker stress that women, and all parents, need good child care.
On the other hand, children are a traditional topic of interest for women legislators and Ms. Pelosi has five children and six grand children. She waited until her youngest daughter was a senior in high school to run for Congress. While feminists might feel some concern that speaker Pelosi is uniting children’s and women’s interests so strongly, they should be reassured that as a member of Congress, Ms. Pelosi has championed family planning, health care, and education (among other issues such as fighting terrorism and protecting the environment).
In the dominant political climate of the last 20 plus years (conservative and centrist), children’s issues have become a short hand for a progressive agenda — increasing access to health care, reducing poverty, improving public education — in short, making the economy more people-friendly, a goal most of us can support. It will be interesting to see how Ms. Pelosi’s priorities on children will play out in the new Congress. John Sperling, author of the Great Divide, commented to me that he thought by focusing on children, Ms. Pelosi is explicitly appealing to Republican women, to which someone else in the room said “more power to her.”
– Heidi Hartmann

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