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December 2006 January 2007 RNR

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December 2006/January 2007

IWPR’s Research News Reporter is distributed monthly to highlight informative, innovative, and sometimes controversial research related to women and their families. Each selection includes a short description of the research and either a link to the report or a citation.

  1. The Best and Worst State Economies for Women
  2. The Global Gender Gap: Report 2006
  3. Repeat Abortion in the United States
  4. “Opt Out” or Pushed Out? How the Press Covers Work/Family Conflict—The Untold Story of Why Women Leave the Workforce
  5. Financing Public Preschool Programs: Current Practices and Future Possibilities


1. The Best and Worst State Economies for Women

Heidi Hartmann, Olga Sorokina, and Erica Williams

Institute for Women’s Policy Research

December 2006

In this report, the Institute for Women’s Policy Research continues to track how women fare across state economies on a number of different economic indicators, using data from the Current Population Survey and the Economic Census. The study ranks and grades all 50 states and the District of Columbia on two composite indices comprised of four indicators each: the Earning and Employment Composite Index, which is based on median annual earnings figures, the earnings ratio between women and men, the percent of women in the labor force, and the percent of women in managerial or professional occupations and the Economic Policy Environment Composite Index, which is based on the percent of women with health insurance, the percent of women with a four year college degree or more, the percent of businesses that are women-owned, and the percent of women living above poverty. This study marks the tenth anniversary for the Status of Women in the States series, and provides insight into the current status of women at the state and national level, while also taking note of longer term positive and negative trends.

Some of the findings include:

  • Averaging both composite scores, the District of Columbia, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Vermont, Connecticut, New Jersey, and Colorado comprise the best eight states for women.
  • Arkansas, Louisiana, West Virginia, Mississippi, Kentucky, Montana, Tennessee, and New Mexico scored the worst for women.
  • The wage ratio worsened in 15 states between 1999 and 2005, with the biggest drops in the ratio of women’s to men’s earnings taking place in Idaho, Wyoming, and the District of Columbia.
  • Women have almost achieved parity with men in the proportion with a four-year college degree. Among women 25 years and older, 26.5 percent had at least a Bachelor’s degree in 2005 compared with 29.1 percent of men.
  • The share of women without health insurance has increased in 43 states since 2002. Nationwide, 18.6 percent of women between the ages of 18 and 64, or 14 million, lack health insurance.
  • In 34 states and the District of Columbia the proportion of women above the poverty line increased between 1995 and 2005; 15 states experienced decreases in the proportion of women above poverty and one state, Alabama, saw no change in women’s poverty.

The report concludes by offering a number of policy recommendations for legislators and employers for expanding the opportunities available to women throughout the country. Some of these recommendations include ensuring comparable pay for men and women in similar positions, expanding affordable early education and child care options, and improving family friendliness in the workplace through enhanced paid sick days policies and longer family care leave.

The full report can be accessed at

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2. The Global Gender Gap: Report 2006

Richard Hausmann, Laura D. Tyson, Saadia Zahidi

World Economic Forum

November 2006

This report provides an expansive look at how women fare socially and economically in comparison with men around the world. The 2006 report is the second in an on-going series first created by the World Economic Forum in 2005 and contains a new Gender Gap Index, used to quantify the gap in men’s and women’s outcomes in individual countries in four fundamental categories: economic participation and opportunity, educational attainment, health and survival, and political empowerment. The authors draw on a wide array of 2006 data collected from a number of international organizations to build the index, including the International Labor Organization, the World Economic Forum, the United Nations, the World Health Organization, and the International Parliamentary Union. Detailed country profiles are also provided for 115 countries.

Some key global and regional trends include:

  • Globally, women have only 15 percent of the political power and little over 50 percent of the economic opportunity enjoyed by men.
  • Regionally, Oceania (Australia and New Zealand) and Europe rank highest for women’s equality, having closed over 70 percent of the gender gap, while the Middle-East ranks the lowest, with less than 60 percent of the gap closed.
  • The United States lags behind Europe and Canada on the index, ranking 22nd out of a total of 115 countries. Though the U.S. ranks highly on economic participation and opportunity (3rd out of 115) and ties for first place with 33 other countries on health, it ranks 66th for women’s political empowerment.

The authors conclude by drawing links between economic performance and increasing equality for women, noting that optimizing a country’s human capital is essential to remaining competitive in the global market.

The full report can be found at

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3. Repeat Abortion in the United States

Rachel K. Jones, Susheela Singh, Lawrence B. Finer, Lori F. Frohwirth

Guttmacher Institute

Occasional Report No. 29, November 2006

This study examines patterns of repeat abortions, highlighting social, demographic, and economic differences between repeat and first-time abortion patients. Drawing upon a number of sources, including statewide annual abortion surveillance reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) through 2002, the Guttmacher Institute’s 1999 and 2000 Abortion Provider Census, 2000-2001 Abortion Patient Survey, and 2004 Abortion Reasons and Logistics Survey, and the 2002 National Survey of Family Growth (NSFG), the authors explore characteristics of women seeking repeat abortions, and discuss how this information might be relevant in reducing the need for repeat abortions in the future.

Key trends outlined in the study include:

  • Age is the strongest indicator identifying repeat abortion patients, and women obtaining second or higher-order abortions are almost twice as likely as those obtaining first abortions to be aged 30 or older (32 percent vs. 18 percent).
  • Repeat abortion patients are also more likely to have had prior births than first-time abortion patients (76 percent vs. 47 percent).
  • While first-time abortion patients are most likely to be white women (45.4 percent), followed by African American (26.2 percent) and Hispanic women (20.3 percent), repeat-abortion patients are most likely to be African American women (37.7 percent), followed by white (35.5 percent) and Hispanic women (19.8 percent).
  • Among women aged 25 and older, repeat abortion patients are less likely to have a college degree (17 percent vs. 29 percent).
  • Repeat abortion patients are slightly more likely to receive Medicaid, an indicator of economic disadvantage, though there is no discernable difference in poverty rates between repeat patients and first-time patients.

The authors outline several strategies for reducing the number of women needing repeat abortions in the future. The authors note that repeat abortion is a strong indicator of repeat unintended pregnancy, and thus policy changes targeting unintended pregnancy could reduce the number of women seeking repeat abortions. Suggestions include the provision of elective IUD insertion and emergency contraceptives to all women following an abortion procedure and increased funding for Title X, to allow all women access to family planning resources regardless of income.

The full report can be accessed at

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4. “Opt-Out” Or Pushed Out?: How the Press Covers Work/Family Conflict—The Untold Story of Why Women Leave the Workforce

Joan C. Williams, Jessica Manvell, and Stephanie Bornstein

Center for WorkLife Law
University of California, Hastings College of Law


This report examines how American media sources report professional women’s choice to cut back on work hours or leave the workforce altogether. These women are portrayed as “opting out” of the paid workforce in order to provide full-time care for children. The researchers conducted the most comprehensive news content analysis published-to-date, analyzing 119 print news articles from major national as well as regional newspapers, published between January 1, 1980 and March 10, 2006.

The main findings of the review include:

  • Only 6 percent of news stories surveyed discussed as the primary focus of the article the “push” factors, such as gender discrimination and inflexible office policies, as key reasons for women to leave their jobs. In contrast, 73 percent of news stories have predominately focused on the psychological or biological “pull” factors drawing women away from the workforce into more traditional roles, such as a desire to be with their children.
  • Only 12 percent, or 14 out of 119 of the articles discuss the negative impacts of “opting out” to the economy or society at large.
  • The review of articles finds that “opting out” is portrayed as a choice made by individuals, rather than as a result of broader issues, like workplace policies that have not adapted to changing workforce and family realities in which a majority of families have two earners, a lack of work supports for women (i.e. child care), and gender stereotyping and bias.
  • The news articles focus overwhelmingly on women in managerial and professional positions, ignoring the work/family realities of other women workers and skewing the representation of women’s workforce participation.

The authors conclude that the “Opt Out” storylines portrayed in American newspapers are largely flawed and do not accurately analyze existing data. The report calls for a more accurate accounting of women and work and public policies that address the realities faced by today’s working parents.

The full article is available at

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5. Financing Public Preschool Programs: Current Practices and Future Possibilities

Committee for Economic Development

November 2006

In this issue brief, the Committee for Economic Development (CED) analyzes public investment strategies in early education. Currently, 39 states and the District of Columbia offer publicly funded preschool programs, the majority of which are designed to primarily serve pooror at-risk children, as do federal commitments to early education. Public investments for early education are directed to various funding streams, and programs must rely on an array of appropriations from different federal, state, and local sources. The authors provide examples of innovative financing strategies for improving the quality of and access to early education for all children, regardless of financial need. These models are drawn from within and outside of the education sector, as well as from other countries.

The authors highlight the following strategies:

  • Federal-to-state grant programs could be created in which both governments contributed equal amounts to finance preschool or federal, state, and local governments could expand existing programs, such as Head Start, allowing the programs to enroll more children, including non-poor children whose parents want them to attend.
  • Alternatively, with additional resources, existing policies, institutions, and financial structures could be utilized to extend pre-kindergarten into public schools.
  • Using parent cost-sharing models could relieve public funds from supporting the cost entire preschool programs. Public funds could provide a quality part-day program for all children, and additional hours or services could be available with parental co-payment based on a sliding scale.
  • Public/private partnerships could be established to leverage private funding if public funds are limited. Local and state governments could create endowment or scholarship programs to finance students or preschool programs in partnership with the private sector. Contributions could be encouraged through matching donations or offering tax credits.
  • State appropriations could subsidize the cost of preschool for all students, and parents could contribute a percentage of the subsidized tuition based on a sliding-income scale as is done in the higher education system. Federal and state financial aid could be made available as well.

The authors conclude that implementing programs and providing access to high-quality care to all three- and four-year old children will require new investments, and that the necessary funds will have to come from new and innovative sources. The examples provided in this issue brief generate ideas for policymakers to move forward in making high-quality preschool programs accessible and affordable for all children in the United States.

The full article is available at

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