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Addressing Policy Gaps for Women and Girls in New Haven: Latest Report in IWPR Series on Status of Women

By Anlan Zhang, Tonia Bui, and Cynthia Hess

Two years ago, a diverse group of women with extensive ties to the New Haven community came together and asked, “What is the status of women and girls in New Haven?” The answer became the impetus for IWPR’s recent report, The Status of Women & Girls in New Haven, Connecticut.

The report, part of IWPR’s series on the status of women, was commissioned by the City of New Haven and produced in collaboration with the Consortium for Women and Girls in New Haven. The Consortium provided ongoing guidance and review from individuals working in diverse fields, including law enforcement, women’s health, education, philanthropy, and employment services.

This latest report in IWPR’s status of women series points to both the remarkable advances women and girls have made in recent years in New Haven and to the work that remains to be done to address the needs of female residents in the city. For example, women in New Haven, as in the nation as a whole, are active in the workforce and have made great strides in closing the education gap with men. But men earn more than women with similar levels of education and more than one quarter of New Haven’s female residents live in poverty.

The Status of Women & Girls in New Haven, Connecticut has four main goals:  to provide information on the status of women and girls in the city, to inform policy and program priorities, to create a platform for advocacy, and to provide baseline information to measure the progress of public policies and program initiatives. The report’s findings and analyses touch on issues such as employment and earnings, economic security, education, health and well-being, political participation, and crime and safety.

Among the report’s key findings is that attending to the disparities between women and girls from different race, ethnic, and socio-economic groups is a key to implementing changes that further women’s and girl’s continued advancement in New Haven. Women and girls from low-income communities in New Haven, who are predominantly black and Hispanic, disproportionately bear the burden of unemployment, poverty, poor health, and crime.

Many of the issues addressed in the report are interconnected, and understanding their combined effects on the lives of women and girls is crucial for creating public policies and developing program initiatives in the City of New Haven. Some of the public policy recommendations mentioned in the report include encouraging employers to be proactive agents in remedying gender wage inequities; supporting women-led, women-initiated businesses and female-specific programs in New Haven; implementing career and education counseling for girls beginning in elementary school; and creating a comprehensive health curriculum in the New Haven School District that addresses physical and mental health, including the prevention of dating violence and the advancement of reproductive health.

The report also shines a spotlight on the critical importance of having well-established local data sets and the means to collect reliable data that can be disaggregated by sex, race, and ethnicity. These resources can help track progress on key indicators for communities such as New Haven.

Co-chairs of the Consortium for Women and Girls, Chisara Asomugha and Carolyn Mazure, describe the report as “an unprecedented effort to paint a clear and compelling picture of New Haven’s women and girls.” A June convening to present the findings brought together more than 500 attendees, including advocates for women and families, demonstrating the enormous interest in this research.

As the United States moves away from the deepest economic downturn in the many decades, policymakers need to understand and take into consideration the unique needs of women and girls. The Status of Women & Girls in New Haven, Connecticut is an invaluable tool for policymakers and advocates striving to improve the New Haven community and one that can serve as a model for other communities nationwide addressing similar policy issues.

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.

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