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Health & Safety

Health and Safety



Economic Security for Survivors




About Health & Safety

Women have a set of specific concerns when it comes to health. More often than not, women make the majority of health care-related decisions regarding health issues for their families, are the primary caregivers, and spend more than their male counterparts on health (KFF 2009; Agency for 2004). While women, on average, are more likely than men to have health insurance, they are at special risk of a number of specific health conditions, such as depression and exposure to intimate partner violence. Low-income women and women of color are especially likely to experience poor health outcomes, with African American women, in particular, showing much higher rates of HIV/AIDS, heart disease, diabetes, and infants with low birth weight. These realities make consideration of woman-specific issues vitally important to policy decisions in the area of health.

IWPR’s research on women’s health and safety informs policy decisions by identifying gender and racial/ethnic disparities in health outcomes and access to health care services in addition to highlighting opportunities for improvement. IWPR’s reports and resources discuss a range of policy issues including access to paid sick days, the relationship between women’s health and socio-economic status, cost-benefit analyses of paid sick days provision, and rates of breastfeeding.

An IWPR fact sheet reported that 44 million workers in the United States lacked paid sick days in 2010, with 77 percent of food service workers lacking access. Preceding the passage of the first state-wide paid sick days legislation in the United States in Connecticut, IWPR estimated that Connecticut taxpayers would save $4.7 million annually in a cost-benefit analysis of universal paid sick days provision.

Recent reports on policy impacts on breastfeeding rates estimate that the breastfeeding protections in the 2010 Affordable Care Act will increase the national rate of breastfeeding through six months of age by four full percentage points, giving more women and their children the opportunity to draw from the health benefits associated with breastfeeding, such as protection from childhood leukemia, sudden infant death syndrome, and diabetes.


View our external resources page or multimedia page for more information on this topic.

Latest Reports from IWPR

Paid Sick Days in New York City Would Lower Health Care Costs by Reducing Unnecessary Emergency Department Visits
by Kevin Miller, Ph.D. and Claudia Williams (February 2012)

In New York City, 50 percent of working New Yorkers, or approximately 1,580,000 employees, lack access to paid sick days. This fact sheet reports findings from research by the Institute for Women's Policy Research (IWPR) on how increased access to paid sick days would improve both access to health care and health outcomes in New York City. The research also quantifies the savings gained by providing access to paid sick days to all workers, thereby preventing some emergency department visits in New York City.


Paid Sick Days and Health: Cost Savings from Reduced Emergency Department Visits
by Kevin Miller, Ph.D., Claudia Williams, and Youngmin Yi (November 2011)

Many states and localities, as well as the U.S. Congress, have considered legislation or ballot measures requiring that employers provide paid sick days to their workers. Such laws have been approved in the state of Connecticut, the cities of San Francisco and Seattle, and the District of Columbia. There has been much debate about the merits of such laws—which could affect the lives of the two-fifths of private sector employees without access to paid sick days—particularly regarding the costs and benefits for affected employees and businesses, as well as health effects for employees. This report focuses on the potential impact of paid sick days on the health of employees and their families and presents the following findings.

#B301, Report, 41 pages

Denver Paid Sick Days Would Promote Children’s School Success
by Sarah Towne, Rhiana Gunn-Wright, Kevin Miller, Ph.D., and Barbara Gault, Ph.D. (October 2011)

Paid sick days for working parents can enhance children’s school success. Parents face a difficult choice if their children get sick when they lack paid sick days: staying home with the child and missing pay (and possibly facing discipline at work); sending the child to school sick, which compromises their school performance and spreads illness to others; leaving the child at home alone, putting the child at risk; leaving the child with an older sibling who in turn must stay home from school; or trusting the child to a temporary caregiver. Each of these scenarios has potential costs for schools or for child well-being. The negative effects of inadequate sick days coverage disproportionately affect people of color and low-income adults in Denver, because they are less likely than other Denver residents to be able to earn paid sick days. This paper by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) addresses how children's school success can be improved when working parents have access to paid sick days by reviewing published research, Denver Public Schools data, and information provided in interviews and surveys of Denver Public Schools personnel.1

#B300, Briefing Paper, 12 pages

Valuing Good Health in Denver: The Costs and Benefits of Paid Sick Days
by Kevin Miller, Ph.D. and Claudia Williams (October 2011)

Voters in Denver will consider a referendum on the 2011 ballot regarding the issue of requiring employers to provide paid sick days. Using the parameters of the proposed law and publicly available data, this paper estimates the anticipated costs and some of the anticipated benefits of the law for employers providing new leave, as well as some of the benefits for employees. Employees of businesses with ten or more employees are estimated to use an average of 2.5 days annually out of a maximum of 9 that may be accrued, while employees at smaller businesses are estimated to use an average of 2.1 days annually out of a maximum of 5 accrued. The anticipated cost of the law for employers due to lost productivity and increased wages is equivalent to a 20 cent-per-hour increase in wages for employees receiving new leave. The anticipated savings for employers, notably a reduction in costly employee turnover, are expected to have a wage equivalent of a savings of 22 cents per hour. Annually, businesses in Denver are expected to expend $22.8 million in providing new paid sick days for employees. Providing new paid sick days is expected to yield benefits of $24.2 million annually, for a net savings for Denver employers of $1.4 million annually.

#B298, Briefing Paper, 25 pages

Paid Sick Days in Denver Would Improve Health Outcomes, Reduce Racial/Ethnic Health Disparities, And Help Control Health Care Costs
by Claudia Williams and Kevin Miller, Ph.D. (October 2011)

In Denver, 41 percent of the private-sector workforce, or 107,407 workers, lack access to paid sick days. In the present research, the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) estimates the improvements in access to health care and health outcomes that Denver workers without paid sick days and their families would experience if they were to gain access to paid sick days.


San Francisco Employment Growth Remains Stronger with Paid Sick Days Law Than Surrounding Counties
by Kevin Miller, Ph.D., and Sarah Towne (September 2011)


Paid Sick Days and Employer Penalties for Absence
by Kevin Miller, Ph.D., Robert Drago, Ph.D., and Claudia Williams (July 2011)


Paid Sick Days in Connecticut Would Improve Health Outcomes, Help Control Health Care Costs
by Kevin Miller, Ph.D., Robert Drago, Ph.D., and Claudia Williams (May 2011)


Maternity, Paternity, and Adoption Leave in the United States
by Annamaria Sundbye and Ariane Hegewisch (May 2011)


Access to Paid Sick Days in the States, 2010
by Claudia Williams, Robert Drago, Ph.D., Kevin Miller, Ph.D., and Youngmin Yi (March 2011)


Paid Sick Day Access Rates by Gender and Race/Ethnicity, 2010
by IWPR (March 2011)


San Francisco’s Paid Sick Leave Ordinance: Outcomes for Employers and Employees
by Robert Drago, Ph.D. and Vicky Lovell, Ph.D. (February 2011)

This study examines the effects of San Francisco’s recent paid sick days legislation on employees and employers.

#A138, report, 44 pages

44 Million U.S. Workers Lacked Paid Sick Days in 2010: 77 Percent of Food Service Workers Lacked Access
by Claudia Williams, Robert Drago, Ph.D., and Kevin Miller, Ph.D. (January 2011)


Better Health for Mothers and Children: Breastfeeding Accommodations under the Affordable Care Act
by Robert Drago, Ph.D., Jeffrey Hayes, Ph.D., and Youngmin Yi (December 2010)

This study examines new workplace protections for nursing mothers under federal law. We report current patterns of breastfeeding, and provide the first estimates of coverage rates under the law, as well as the first projections of the likely effect of the new protections on increasing rates of breastfeeding in the United States. The research represents part of a broader body of work undertaken by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research on balancing work and family commitments. The research was made possible by grants from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the Kellogg Foundation, and the Rockefeller Foundation.

#B292, Report, 28 pages

The Costs and Benefits of Paid Sick Days
by Robert Drago, Ph.D. (July 2010)


Focus on Morocco Topic Brief: Health Care Access
by International Foundation for Electoral Systems and Institute for Women's Policy Research (May 2010)


Costs And Benefits Of In-Home Supportive Services For The Elderly And Persons With Disabilities: A California Case Study
by Candace Howes, Ph.D. (May 2010)

This Briefing Paper summarizes the conclusions of the California Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO) report from January 2010, which argued that IHSS is just barely cost effective to the state, and shows that some of the LAO’s assumptions are unrealistic. It presents a more realistic set of assumptions and then re‐estimates the relative benefits of the IHSS program. Finally, it considers the savings to the state if, instead of cutting or part of the IHSS program, the state transitioned one‐third of nursing home residents back into the community.

#E512, Briefing Paper, 18 pages

Valuing Good Health in Connecticut: The Costs and Benefits of Paid Sick Days
by (April 2010)

Policymakers across the country are increasingly interested in ensuring that workers have paid sick days. In addition to concerns about workers' ability to respond to their own health needs, there is growing recognition that, which so many dual-earner and single-parent families, family members' health needs can be address only by workers taking time from their scheduled hours on the job. Paid sick days policies allow workers with contagious illnesses to avoid unnecessary contact with coworkers and customers and, thus, are a fundamental part of public health insurance. Paid sick days protect workers from being fired when they are too sick to work and offer substantial savings to employers by reducing turnover and minimizing absenteeism.


Paid Sick Days Can Help Contain Health Care Costs
by Kevin Miller, PhD (April 2010)

Health spending in the United States as a proportion of GDP has more than doubled in the past 35 years and is the highest among all nations in the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development).


Valuing Good Health in Connecticut: The Costs and Benefits of Paid Sick Days
by Kevin Miller, PhD, and Claudia Williams (April 2010)

Connecticut lawmakers are now considering SB 63, which would require employers to provide all workers with paid sick days. The Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) has estimated the costs and benefits of the proposed law, using governmentcollected data, peer-reviewed research literature, and a thoroughly vetted methodology. Below are key findings from IWPR’s costbenefit analysis.

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