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Employment & Job Quality

About Employment & Job Quality

IWPR examines the quality of jobs across a diverse range of workers and job types, with an emphasis on low-wage employment. Our research explores access to employment benefits such as paid leave, pensions, and health insurance, as well as the adequacy of governmental work supports including Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) and Social Security. The area also covers the use and value of "family-friendly" policies such as paid time off to care for sick family members, flextime, telecommuting, and child care assistance.

More than 44 million Americans lack access to paid sick leave, but campaigns are underway at city, state, and national levels to pass paid sick days legislation.

IWPR research in workplace leave policies made an early impact. In its founding year, IWPR analyzed the costs to American workers of not having unpaid leave for childbirth, personal health needs, or family care giving in its inaugural publication, Unnecessary Losses: Costs to Americans of the Lack of Family and Medical Leave. IWPR testified before the U.S. Senate with the report’s unique findings. Our research showed that—by not recognizing the need for work-life balanceestablished policies not only failed to support workers and their families, but were costly to taxpayers. Six years later, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) was signed into law.

Access to paid sick leave is another important and relevant component of job quality. Having paid sick days also provides more economic security, particularly to low-income workers, who are able to take a day off to care for their own illness or for a family member without fear of losing their job. This issue is particularly important to women who tend to serve as caregivers for children and older relatives. More than 44 million Americans lack access to paid sick leave, but campaigns are underway at city, state, and national levels to pass paid sick days legislation. IWPR research on paid leave has found that employees with access to the benefit have better self-reported health and are less likely to visit hospital emergency rooms, reducing private and public health care costs.

According to a 2010 survey, funded by the Rockefeller Foundation, as of late 2010, 76 percent of Americans favored laws supporting paid family and medical leave, 75 percent support policies promoting quality, affordable child and after-school care, and 69 percent support national paid sick days legislation. These policies must be accessible to those who need them most. IWPR’s research found that, during the 2009–2010 recession, 62 percent of the 15.5 million women living in poverty did not receive food stamps, and 88 percent received no TANF income.

In addition to its ongoing research, IWPR is conducting public education activities and holding forums for disseminating information about the need for and benefits of new job quality policies to policymakers, business leaders, researchers, advocates, and the general public.

For more information on this critical issue, visit our Family Leave & Paid Sick Days webpage.


View IWPR press releases and media citations related to Employment & Job Quality.

To see our experts on this and other initiatives, click here.

Visit our external resources page for links to more information on this topic.

Latest Reports from IWPR

Women Continue Strong Recent Job Gains: 78 percent of Jobs Added in 2nd Quarter of 2016 Went to Women
by Institute for Women's Policy Research (July 2016)

July Jobs Report Confirms New Labor Market Normal: Smaller Gender Gap in Payroll Jobs following the Great Recession. Across the Recovery, Women Have Gained 45 Percent of Jobs Added Since June 2009, a Higher Share than They Lost in the Recession


Pathways to Equity: Narrowing the Wage Gap by Improving Women’s Access to Good Middle-Skill Jobs
by Ariane Hegewisch Marc Bendick Jr., Ph.D. Barbara Gault, Ph.D. Heidi Hartmann, Ph.D. (March 2016)

This report addresses women’s access to well-paid, growing, middle-skill jobs (jobs that do not require a bachelor’s degree). It documents sex segregation in middle-skill jobs, and discusses how gender integration of good jobs could both reduce skill-shortages and improve women’s economic security. The report focuses on middle-skilled “target” occupations in manufacturing, information technology, and transportation, distribution, and logistics that have high projected job openings and that typically employ few women. Using an innovative methodology based on the U.S. Department of Labor’s O*Net database, Marc Bendick, Ph.D., of Bendick and Egan Economic Consultants, Inc, joined IWPR researchers Ariane Hegewisch, Barbara Gault, Ph.D., and Heidi Hartmann, Ph.D. to identify lower paid predominantly female occupations that share many of the characteristics of the “target” occupations and can serve as “on-ramp” occupations to good middle-skill jobs for women seeking to improve their earnings, and employers looking to fill the vacancies. The report is part of the Institute for Women’s Policy Research’s Pathways to Equity: Women and Good Jobs initiative, funded by a grant from the JPMorgan Chase Foundation as part of its of its $250 million, five-year New Skills at Work initiative. For more information, visit


Women Gain 167,000 Jobs Out of 242,000 Jobs Added in February
by Institute for Women's Policy Research (March 2016)

The Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) analysis of the March employment report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) finds that women gained 167,000 jobs and men gained 75,000 for a total of 242,000 jobs added in February, giving women 69 percent of job growth. February is the 72nd month of uninterrupted job growth in the private sector. The overall unemployment rate remained steady at 4.9 percent between January and February.


The Best and Worst States Overall for Women in 2015
by Institute for Women's Policy Research (November 2015)

This Fact Sheet is based on findings from The Status of Women in the States: 2015, a comprehensive national report that presents and analyzes data for all 50 states and the District of Columbia.


Women’s Median Earnings as a Percent of Men’s Median Earnings, 1960-2014 (Full-time, Year-round Workers) with Projection for Pay Equity in 2059
by Institute for Women's Policy Research (September 2015)

If current trends continue, women will not see equal pay with men until 2059.


Women Gain 107,000 Jobs in August and Men Gain 66,000 Jobs
by Institute for Women's Policy Research (September 2015)

According to an Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) analysis of the September employment report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), women gained 107,000 jobs and men gained 66,000 for a total of 173,000 jobs added in August. The overall unemployment rate decreased to 5.1 percent in August from 5.3 percent in July.


The Union Advantage for Women
by (August 2015)

This briefing paper presents an analysis of women’s union membership and the union wage and benefit advantage for women by state and by race/ethnicity. It is based on an analysis of the Current Population Survey. Wage and benefit data are for all workers covered by a union contract, irrespective of their membership in a union.


Nearly Half of Currently Exempt Women Workers Aged 18 to 34 Will Gain Coverage Under DOL’s New Proposed Overtime Salary Threshold
by Institute for Women's Policy Research (August 2015)

When looking at all newly covered female salaried workers by age, Millennial women workers, aged 18-34 years old, will benefit most from an increase in access to overtime pay. As shown in Figure 1, comparing different age groups, the greatest percentage increase in newly covered workers will be seen among Millennial women workers. Forty-eight percent of formerly exempt Millennial women will be covered, compared with 32 percent of working women aged 35-49, 31 percent of working women aged 50-64, and 31 percent of working women aged 65 and older. These newly covered include those currently working overtime and those not currently working overtime.


How the New Overtime Rule Will Help Women & Families
by Heidi Hartmann, Ph.D., Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner, Hero Ashman, Jeffrey Hayes, Ph.D., and Hailey Nguyen (August 2015)

This report, a collaboration between the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) and MomsRising, is an analysis of the U.S. Department of Labor’s proposed change to the overtime threshold and how this change will affect working women. The report focuses on the 5.9 million workers who would be “newly covered” by the proposed increase and explores the differences in the impacts of the higher earnings threshold by sex, and among women by race/ethnicity, household type, and occupation.


Women Gain Two Out of Three New Jobs in June: Women Gained 150,000 and Men Gained 73,000 Jobs
by Institute for Women's Policy Research (July 2015)

According to an Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) analysis of the July employment report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), women gained 150,000 jobs and men gained 73,000 for a total of 223,000 jobs added in June. The overall unemployment rate decreased to 5.3 percent in June from 5.5 percent in May.


Strong Job Gains for Women in May: Women Gained 189,000 and Men Gained 91,000 Jobs
by Institute for Women's Policy Research (June 2015)

According to an Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) analysis of the June employment report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), in May women gained 189,000 jobs and men gained 91,000 for a total of 280,000 jobs added in the month. The overall unemployment rate increased slightly to 5.5 percent in May from 5.4 percent in April. (In May, the number of people employed increased 272,000 and the number unemployed, but looking for work, grew 125,000 while the number not in the labor force dropped by 208,000.)


The Status of Women in the States: 2015 (full report)
by Cynthia Hess, Ph.D., Jessica Mill, Ph.D., Jeff Hayes, Ph.D., Ariane Hegewisch, M. Phil., Yana Mayayeva, Stephanie Roman, Julie Anderson, M.A., and Justine Augeri (May 2015)

The Status of Women in the States: 2015 provides critical data to identify areas of progress for women in states across the nation and pinpoint where additional improvements are still needed. It presents hundreds of data points for each state across seven areas that affect women’s lives: political participation, employment and earnings, work and family, poverty and opportunity, reproductive rights, health and well-being, and violence and safety. For each of these topic areas except violence and safety, the report calculates a composite index, ranks the states from best to worst, and assigns a letter grade based on the difference between the state’s performance in that area and goals set by IWPR (e.g., no remaining wage gap or the proportional representation of women in political office). The report also tracks progress over time, covers basic demographic statistics on women, and presents additional data on a range of topics related to women’s status. In addition, it gives an overview of how women from various population groups fare, including women of color, young women, older women, immigrant women, women living with a same-sex partner, and women in labor unions. This report builds on IWPR’s long-standing work on The Status of Women in the States, a series of data analyses and reports that for nearly 20 years have provided data on women’s status nationally and for all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Status of Women in the States reports have three main goals: 1) to analyze and disseminate information about women’s progress in achieving rights and opportunities; 2) to identify and measure the remaining barriers to equality; and 3) to provide baseline measures for monitoring women’s progress. The data presented in these reports can serve as a resource for advocates, policymakers, and other stakeholders who seek to develop community investments, programs, and public policies that can lead to positive changes for women and families.

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Spring 2015 Newsletter: Annual Report Edition
by Institute for Women's Policy Research (May 2015)

Provides a review of IWPR's activities over the year.


Women in the Construction Trades: Earnings, Workplace Discrimination, and the Promise of Green Jobs
by Ariane Hegewisch and Brigid O'Farrell (April 2015)

Based on the 2013 IWPR Tradeswomen Survey, an exploratory study of women working in construction trades, this report provides insights to working conditions for women in the construction industry, examines their earnings and employment experiences since the end of the Great Recession, and analyzes women’s motivations for pursuing green training and its impact on their employment. The report builds on a previous IWPR study, Quality Employment for Women in the Green Economy, which mapped women’s underrepresentation in green growth occupations. The research was funded by a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation’s program Sustainable Employment in a Green U.S. Economy (SEGUE).


Untapped Resources, Untapped Labor Pool: Using Federal Highway Funds to Prepare Women for Careers in Construction
by Ariane Hegewisch, Jane Henrici, Elyse Shaw, and Thomas Hooper (December 2014)

Women are underrepresented in highway, street, and bridge construction where employment is projected to grow by more than 20 percent until 2022. Creating sustainable pathways into construction careers fills critical hiring needs for industry while improving economic security for women, as these jobs typically provide family-supporting wages with good benefits. Activities to improve women’s recruitment and retention in skilled construction jobs are widely known, but dedicated funding for such activities is scarce. Federal highway funding offers states a stable resource that can support activities that improve women’s entry into and success in the construction trades. This briefing highlights examples of how two states, Maryland and Oregon, are using this funding to improve diversity in the highway construction workforce. The paper begins by discussing the lack of gender diversity in the construction workforce, describes the challenges and proven strategies for improving the pipeline into construction jobs for women, and outlines how federal highway dollars can be used to improve the diversity of this workforce by funding on-the-job training and support services. The briefing paper is based on a review of literature, pre-apprenticeship state-level evaluations and progress reports, and interviews with key stakeholders from Oregon, the tradeswomen community, and the U.S. Department of Transportation.


Women in Construction and the Economic Recovery: Results from 2013 IWPR Tradeswomen Survey
by Ariane Hegewisch and Brigid O'Farrell (August 2014)

This research-in-brief draws on the 2013 IWPR Tradeswomen Survey, an exploratory survey on the opportunities and challenges for women working in construction trades. The survey yielded responses from 219 U.S.-based tradeswomen from 33 states and presents a mixed picture for women in construction. While many respondents are earning good wages, unemployment and underemployment are still high. The majority of respondents report that they feel largely treated equally to men, yet far too many report unequal treatment in hiring, training, assignments, and promotions. Three in ten respondents report high levels of harassment. Fewer than five respondents in total reported having learned about opportunities in the trades through school or career counselors. These findings suggest that contractors, labor unions, and the government are failing to recruit, train, and ensure a safe workplace free of harassment for many women.


The Costs and Benefits of Paid Sick Days (Testimony before the Mayor's Task Force on Paid Sick Leave of Philadelphia)
by Jessica Milli, Ph.D. (August 2014)

Testimony of Jessica Milli, Ph.D., before the Mayor’s Task Force on Paid Sick Leave of Philadelphia (August 6, 2014)

Preview not available

Quality Jobs and Supports Build Strong Workplaces
by Barbara Gault, Ph.D. (June 2014)

Testimony of Barbara Gault, Ph.D.before the Joint Economic Committee June 18, 2014


The Gender Wage Gap by Occupation and by Race and Ethnicity, 2013
by Ariane Hegewisch and Stephanie Keller Hudiburg (April 2014)

Women’s median earnings are lower than men’s in nearly all occupations, whether they work in occupations predominantly done by women, occupations predominantly done by men, or occupations with a more even mix of men and women. Data for both women’s and men’s median weekly earnings for full-time work are available for 112 occupations ; there are only three occupations in which women have higher median weekly earnings than men. In 101 of the 112 occupations, the gender earnings ratio of women’s median weekly earnings to men’s is 0.95 or lower (that is, a wage gap of at least 5 cents per dollar earned by men); in 17 of these occupations the gender earnings ratio is lower than 0.75 (that is, a wage gap of more than 25 cents per dollar earned by men).


Paid Sick Days Access in the United States: Differences by Race/Ethnicity, Occupation, Earnings, and Work Schedule
by Claudia Williams and Barbara Gault (March 2014)

Paid sick days bring substantial benefits to employers, workers, families, and communities. The economic and public health benefits of paid sick leave coverage include safer work environments; improved work life balance, reduced spread of contagion; and reduced health care costs. Access to this important benefit, however, is still too rare, and is unequally distributed across the U.S. population, with differences by race and ethnicity, occupation, earnings levels, and work schedules. Utilizing data from the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), IWPR finds that in 2012, approximately 61 percent of private-sector workers age 18 and older in the U.S. had access to paid sick days (Figure 1); up from 57 percent in 2009. More than 41 million workers lack access.

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