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August 2008 RNR

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Below is the newest installation of Research News Reporter (RNR) Online. Previous editions can be viewed in the Archives.

August 2008

IWPR’s Research News Reporter is distributed to highlight informative, innovative, and sometimes controversial research related to women and their families.

Research Making News
1. “Math Scores for Girls and Boys No Different, Study Finds "
2. “Women Are Now Equal as Victims of Poor Economy "
3.“Many Retirees Face Prospect of Outliving Savings, Study Says ”
4. "Violence is Common amoung the Young "

Research Reports
1. Advancing Women Leaders: The Connection between Women Board of Directors and Women Corporate Officers
2. Parents and the High Price of Child Care: 2008 Update
3. A New Safety Net for Low-Income Families
4. Weathering Job Loss: Unemployment Insurance

Research Making News _____________________________

Each selection includes a short excerpt, link to the news article, and link to the research cited:

“Math Scores for Girls and Boys No Different, Study Finds”

Los Angeles Times
By Wendy Hansen
July 25, 2008

Citing: Gender Similarities Characterize Math Performance by Janet S. Hyde, Sara M. Lindberg, Marcia C. Linn, Amy B. Ellis, and Catherine C. Williams published in Science, July 2008.

“The notion that boys are better than girls at math simply doesn't add up, according to a study published today in the journal Science.

An analysis of standardized test scores from more than 7.2 million students in grades 2 through 11 found no difference in math scores for girls and boys, contradicting the pervasive belief that most women aren't hard-wired for careers in science and technology.

The study also undermined the assumption—infamously espoused by former Harvard University President Lawrence H. Summers in 2005—that boys are more likely than girls to be math geniuses. Girls scored in the top percent almost as often as boys, the data showed.

‘Both parents and teachers continue to hold the stereotype that boys are better than girls at math,’ said psychologist Janet Hyde of the University of Wisconsin at Madison, who led the study. ‘That's just not accurate.’

Hyde and her colleagues examined detailed data from math tests administered between 2005 and 2007 as part of the No Child Left Behind initiative.

Comparing the average scores of girls and boys in California and nine other states, the researchers found that neither gender consistently outpaced the other in any state or at any grade level.

Even on test questions from the National Assessment of Education Progress that were designed to measure complex reasoning skills, the gender differences were minuscule, according to the study.

To view the full article, visit the Los Angeles Times online.

To purchase Gender Similarities Characterize Math Performance, click here:

“‘Women Are Now Equal as Victims of Poor Economy”

The New York Times
By Louis Uchitelle
July 22, 2008

Citing: Equality in Job Loss by the Majority Staff of the Joint Economic Committee.

Across the country, women in their prime earning years, struggling with an unfriendly economy, are retreating from the work force, either permanently or for long stretches.

They had piled into jobs in growing numbers since the 1960s. But that stopped happening this decade, and as the nearly seven-year-old recovery gives way to hard times, the retreat is likely to accelerate.

After moving into virtually every occupation, women are being afflicted on a large scale by the same troubles as men: downturns, layoffs, outsourcing, stagnant wages or the discouraging prospect of an outright pay cut. And they are responding as men have, by dropping out or disappearing for a while.
‘When we saw women starting to drop out in the early part of this decade, we thought it was the motherhood movement, women staying home to raise their kids,’ Heather Boushey, a senior economist at the Joint Economic Committee of Congress, which did the Congressional study, said in an interview. ‘We did not think it was the economy, but when we looked into it, we realized that it was.’

[…] The Joint Economic Committee study cites the growing statistical evidence that women are leaving the work force “on par with men,” and the potentially disastrous consequences for families.

‘Women bring home about one-third of family income,’ said Carolyn Maloney, Democrat of New York and vice chairman of the Joint Economic Committee. ‘And only those families with a working wife have seen real improvement in their living standards.’

The proportion of women holding jobs in their prime working years, 25 to 54, peaked at 74.9 percent in early 2000 as the technology investment bubble was about to burst. Eight years later, in June, it was 72.7 percent, a seemingly small decline, but those 2.2 percentage points erase more than 12 years of gains for women. Four million more in their prime years would be employed today if the old pattern had prevailed through the expansion now ending.

The pattern is roughly similar among the well-educated and the less educated, among the married and never married, among mothers with teenage children and those with children under 6, and among white women and black.

To view the full article, visit The New York Times online.

To download Equality in Job Loss, click here:

“Many Retirees Face Prospect of Outliving Savings, Study Says”

The Washington Post
By Nancy Trejos
July 13, 2008

Citing: Retirement Vulnerability of New Retirees by Ernst & Young LLP for Americans for Secure Retirement.

Nearly three out of five middle-class retirees will probably run out of money if they maintain their pre-retirement lifestyles, a new study from Ernst & Young has concluded.

The study finds that Americans will have to drastically reduce their standard of living before retirement to live comfortably, or even avoid destitution, later in life. Middle-income Americans entering retirement now will have to reduce their standard of living by an average of 24 percent to minimize their chances of outliving their financial assets, the study found. Workers seven years from retirement will have to cut their spending by even more—37 percent.

[…] The study was commissioned by Americans for Secure Retirement, a coalition of more than 50 organizations representing women's, small business, agricultural, Hispanic and African American groups, among others. It looked at married and single near- and recent retirees at three pre-retirement income levels: $50,000, $75,000 and $100,000.

Retirees would be much better prepared if they had a guaranteed source of retirement income beyond Social Security, the study concluded. Married couples relying on income aside from Social Security and making $75,000 at retirement have a 31 percent chance of running out of money if they maintain their pre-retirement lifestyles, the study pointed out. But those who rely solely on Social Security have a 90 percent chance.

Congress has taken up the matter. One bill, for instance, would make it easier for workers to get a particular non-Social Security retirement vehicle: an annuity, which is an income-generating contract between the employee and an insurance company. The legislation would exclude from taxation 50 percent of the income received from a lifetime annuity, up to $20,000 per year.”

To view the full article, visit The Washington Post online.

To view Retirement Vulnerability of New Retirees, click here:

Violence is Common among the Young

The Washington Post
By Brittney Johnson
July 22, 2008

Citing:  Relationship Violence among Female and Male College Undergraduate Students by Christine M. Forke, Rachel K. Myers, Marina Catallozzi, and Donald F. Schwarz published in Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, July 2008.

Almost half of undergraduates say they have experienced emotional, physical or sexual violence stemming from personal relationships before or during college, according to a new study.

Although students said most incidents of emotional and physical abuse were committed by partners, some acts of sexual violence involved friends, acquaintances and strangers. The study did not look at violence by family members. Most relationship violence occurs before students step on campus, the study found.

The research, published in the July issue of the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, was based on a survey of 910 students (390 male, 520 female) ages 17 to 22 from three campuses: a nonresidential community college, a mid-size Catholic university and a large Ivy League university.

Students at each school reported similar experience with relationship violence despite the schools' differing racial and socioeconomic mixes.

Although violence in general may be more prevalent among lower-income groups, relationship violence ‘crosses socioeconomic levels, race and gender, and is prevalent across ages,’ said lead researcher Christine Forke, a registered nurse at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.

[…] Amir Afkhami, an instructor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at George Washington University, called the findings fascinating, but he questioned whether the self-reporting understated the problem.

Overall, 44 percent of students reported experiencing at least one type of relationship violence, 42 percent as a victim and 17 percent as a perpetrator. Fifteen percent of females in the study reported being victims of sexual violence.

Afkhami said he thought that figure was low. Based on his clinical experience, he said, ‘at least one-third to one-fourth of women students have experienced some type of forced sexual contact.’

Although most students who said they had been the victims of violence were female (more than 50 percent), 22 percent of male students also said they had been victimized.

[…] During college, male students reported committing a higher rate (2.6 percent) of sexual violence than women (1 percent); female students reported committing a higher rate (7.3 percent) of physical violence than men (1.8 percent).”

To view the full article, visit The Washington Post online.

To view the abstract or purchase a copy of Relationship Violence among Female and Male College Undergraduate Students, click here:


Research Reports _________________________________

Each selection includes a short excerpt from the research and a link to the report:

Advancing Women Leaders: The Connection between Women Board of Directors and Women Corporate Officers

Lois Joy
July 2008

“This research shows that the number of women on a company’s board of directors impacts the future of women in its senior leadership. This is significant because earlier Catalyst findings show that Fortune 500 companies with the highest representation of women board directors and women corporate officers, on average, achieve higher financial performance than those with the lowest. The numbers tell the story—a gender-diverse board promotes continued success for women and for business.
Impetus: Over the past several decades, businesses have become more inclusive of women, dismantling many of the traditional barriers to women’s advancement. Although progress has been significant and is reflected in the number of women managers at the world’s largest companies and professional firms, it has been slow at the very top.

Methodology: Catalyst analyzed the relationship between the percentage of women board directors that a Fortune 500 company had in 2001 and the percentage of women corporate officers the same company had in 2006. The analysis controlled for the effects of industry, revenue, and the percentage of corporate officer positions held by women in 2000. These controls allowed for a more precise depiction of the effect women board directors have on women corporate officers.

Findings: Our results showed that there is a clear and positive correlation between the percentage of women board directors in the past and the percentage of women corporate officers in the future. This finding holds for three different measures:

  • The percentage of women on a company’s board.
  • Company quartile when ranked by percentage of women board directors.
  • The number of women on a company’s board.

In addition, women board directors appear to have a greater effect on increasing the percentage of line positions held by women than they do on staff positions held by women. Put simply, women board directors are predictors of women corporate officers.”

To view the full report, click here:


Parents and the High Price of Child Care: 2008 Update

National Association of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies
July 2008

Parents and the High Price of Child Care: 2008 Update presents data on child care costs collectedfrom a nationwide survey of state and local ChildCare Resource and Referral networks and agencies. This report provides an update withprice data from the most recent survey, conducted in January 2008. While the main findings of the 2008 update have remained consistent with previousreports, the cost of child care in the U.S. hasincreased. This update also found:

  • Child care is still expensive. A family in the United States with one infant will face average prices of $4,542 to $14,591 a year for center-based child care. Parents of a 4-year-old child will encounter average prices of $3,380 to $10,787 a year in child care fees […]
  • Child care prices are higher than other household expenses. In every region of the United States, average child care fees for an infant are higher than the average amount that families spend on food. In every state, monthly child care fees for two children at any age exceed the median rent cost, and are nearly as high as or even higher than the average monthly mortgage payment. In 44 states and the District of Columbia, the average annual price for child care for an infant in a child care center is higher than a year’s tuition at a four-year public college.
  • Child care is particularly unaffordable for single parents. The average annual price of care for two children (one infant and one 4-year-old child) ranges from 48 percent to 102 percent of the state median income for single parents. In 48 states, the average price of care for two children (one infant and one 4-year-old child) would be greater than 50 percent of the median household income for single parents.
  • The price of child care is rising faster than inflation. Overall, states reported increases in child care fees from 2006 to 2007. In 30 states, center care for an infant and for one 4-year-old child increased (decreased in 7 states). The price of full-time center care for one infant and one 4-year-old child increased an average of 6.5 percent and 5.2 percent, respectively, almost twice the rate of inflation.”

To view the full report, click here:


A New Safety Net for Low-Income Families

Sheila R. Zedlewski, Ajay Chaundey, and Margaret Simms
The Urban Institute
July 2008

“During the 1990s, the federal government promised low-income families that work would pay. Parents moved into jobs in response to new welfare rules requiring work, tax credits and other work supports that boosted take-home pay. Unfortunately, the record shows that low-income families have not progressed much. Many don't bring home enough to cover the everyday costs of living. This paper synthesizes the current status of low-income families along with the findings from a set of essays that address key shortcomings in the safety net. The paper summarizes ideas for policies that would make work pay in today's economy.

[…] With so many so vulnerable, the nation needs new policies that make work pay in today's economy. Training or retraining can help parents advance to better-paying jobs. Other services can help parents struggling to get a secure foothold in the labor market find and keep employment. This essay synthesizes an integrated set of policy proposals designed to fulfill these goals and based on four principles:

  • Work should pay enough to cover the basic costs of everyday family living. When hard work fails to cover the costs of housing, medical care, and child care, these expenses should be subsidized in ways that also promote greater work effort.
  • Young children in low-income working families require quality day care, and their parents must be able to combine a job with parenting so their children develop fully.
  • Parents need access to training to move up the career ladder and access to specialized supports when their underdeveloped or outdated skills, their health problems, or other factors put even the first rung of the ladder out of reach.
  • Families that work hard should be able to bridge employment gaps through unemployment insurance and accumulated savings.”

To view the full report, click here:


Weathering Job Loss: Unemployment Insurance

Margaret Simms
The Urban Institute
July 2008

“Low-wage jobs are often characterized by uncertainty and unpredictable gaps in employment. A majority of workers in these jobs do not have access to the temporary income of unemployment insurance to tide them over when they suffer a job loss. This summary outlines recommendations for updating the program by extending benefits to more workers through changes in eligibility rules and establishing more uniform periods of benefit receipt.”

“Most low-income families with children are headed by parents who work. But they work in low-wage jobs fraught with uncertainties and unpredicted spells of unemployment. Few of these families have enough assets to tide them over in hard times, and many lack access to unemployment insurance or other cash assistance programs.

[…] Several UI eligibility requirements work against low-income working families. Their members’ job tenure tends to be shorter, partly because many low-income workers are new entrants or re-entrants to the labor market and thus subject to job churning as bad initial fits with employers resolve themselves. In addition, low-wage employment seldom offers opportunities for career advancement, so workers have less to lose in leaving one job and looking for another. Also, since many low-wage, low-skill workers do not receive such benefits as paid sick leave, they are more likely to leave or lose jobs because of illness or family emergencies. Recent data indicate that a higher percentage of women are job leavers and approximately one-third of job leavers are out of work for 15 weeks or more.”

To view the full report, click here:

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