Below is the newest installation of Research News Reporter (RNR) Online. Previous editions can be viewed in the Archives.
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. “Women are Especially Hard Hit by Massachusetts Budget Cuts, Report Says”
2. “Working Women Say Their Marriage is Richer For It”
3. “Family Leave: Right or Privilege?”
4. “After Years of Decline, Teenage Pregnancy Rate Rises”
5. “With Rising Child-Care Cost, Many Parents are Paying to Work”
1. The Workforce Investment Act and Women’s Progress: Does WIA Funded Training Reinforce Sex Segregation in the Labor Market and the Gender Wage Gap?
2. Valuing Good Health in Maine: The Costs and Benefits of Paid Sick Days
3. Access to Abortion Coverage and Health Reform
4. Health Reform: Implications for Women’s Access to Coverage and Care
Each selection includes a short excerpt, link to the news article, and link to the research cited:
By John M. Guilfoil
January 12, 2010
Citing: An Unstable Ladder: How the Fiscal Crisis is Threatening Education and Work Support Programs for Many Women by Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center.
“[…] In a report titled ‘An Unstable Ladder,’ the independent Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center says cuts in state funding to programs that provide adult education, employment training, and child care subsidies are having a detrimental effect on women, who make up the majority of those receiving such services.
‘We have a long way to go when women still earn 78 cents on every dollar earned by men and when almost two-thirds of the poor families in the state are headed by single women’ said Ruthie Liberman, vice president of the Crittenton Women’s Union in Brighton, which provides services and support to low-income women. “It clearly indicates why these services are so essential.’’
[…] Responding to the report, state officials said the timespan covers two recessions and includes actions taken by previous administrations.
‘We have made every effort to protect education and training funding during these difficult economic times and have utilized federal recovery money to help stabilize the education budgets,’ said Jonathan Palumbo, a spokesman for the Executive Office of Education. […]
Liberman said that since 2001, her organization has had to grow from 30 shelter beds to 140 that are filled nightly by children and their mothers who cannot afford rent.
‘The most devastating human impact from these cuts is the number of families that have had to resort to shelters,’ Liberman said. ‘They don’t have education or training to have the jobs to pay for the cost of living, transportation, and their child care.’
The Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center, known as MassBudget, analyzes how state budgets and tax policies affect low- and middle-income people.”
By Tara Parker-Pope
New York Times
January 22, 2010
Citing: New Economics of Marriage: The Rise of Wives by Richard Fry and D’Vera Cohn at the Pew Research Center.
“Ever since Betty Friedan urged women to leave the house and pursue careers, people have argued over whether women’s marriages and romantic prospects would suffer for it. Was a financially successful woman a threat to her husband or a relief? […]
Last week, a report from the Pew Research Center about what it called “the rise of wives” revived the debate. Based on a study of Census data, Pew found that in nearly a third of marriages, the wife is better educated than her husband. And though men, over all, still earn more than women, wives are now the primary breadwinner in 22 percent of couples, up from 7 percent in 1970.
While the changing economic roles of husbands and wives may take some getting used to, the shift has had a surprising effect on marital stability. Over all, the evidence shows that the shifts within marriages—men taking on more housework and women earning more outside the home—have had a positive effect, contributing to lower divorce rates and happier unions.
‘Women no longer need to marry up educationally or economically, so they are more likely to pick men who support a more egalitarian relationship,’ said Stephanie Coontz, director of research and education for the Council on Contemporary Families and author of “Marriage, A History: How Love Conquered Marriage.” […]
While it’s widely believed that a woman’s financial independence increases her risk for divorce, divorce rates in the United States tell a different story: they have fallen as women have made economic gains. […] Today, the statistics show that typically, the more economic independence and education a woman gains, the more likely she is to stay married. […]
[…] [But] despite the sweeping economic changes in marriage over the last 40 years, all is not equal. Even among dual-earning couples, women still do about two-thirds of the housework, on average, according to the University of Wisconsin National Survey of Families and Households. But men do contribute far more than they used to. Studies show that since the 1960s, men’s contributions to housework have doubled, while the amount of time spent caring for children has tripled.
And the blurring of traditional gender roles appears to have a positive effect. Lynn Prince Cooke, a sociology professor at the University of Kent in England, has found that American couples who share employment and housework responsibilities are less likely to divorce compared with couples where the man is the sole breadwinner. […]”
By Nancy Folbre
Economix (A New York Times Blog)
January 25, 2010
Citing: Giving and Taking Family Leaves: Right or Privilege? By Naomi Gerstel and Amy Armenia.
“[…] The federal government guarantees some American workers the right to 12 weeks of job-protected unpaid leave from paid employment to cope with their own illness, that of a spouse or parent, or the birth or adoption of a child. But recent research on the Family and Medical Leave Act signed into law by President Clinton in 1993 suggests that limited coverage, poor compliance and economic constraints combine to reinforce existing inequalities between men and women, rich and poor.
In a new paper, the sociologists Naomi Gerstel and Amy Armenia explain how a putative new workplace right devolved into a somewhat limited workplace privilege.
First, political compromises limited coverage of the bill to employees who worked for companies with at least 50 employees, met certain targets for hours worked in the previous year, and were providing care to themselves or narrowly specified family members. In 2000, more than half of all employees either worked for exempt companies or failed to meet the federal workplace eligibility requirements […].
[…] Second, a significant percentage of companies do not comply with the law. […] [C]ompliance falls somewhere between 54 percent and 77 percent.
Workers who know their rights can sue employers who violate the law. In practice, such suits are risky and expensive. As a recent study shows, low-wage workers in the United States are particularly vulnerable to labor-law violations. Unionized firms are more likely than others to comply with the rules.
Third, many workers simply can’t afford to take unpaid family leave. Although the law is gender-neutral, women typically take more than twice as many family leave days as men. Perhaps women feel a greater obligation to provide family care, but they earn less pay as a result. And lower earnings, in turn, make it seem more cost-effective for them, rather than their husbands, to take time out. […]
The women least likely to take family leaves were the single parents who probably needed it the most: Disproportionately black and Hispanic certified nursing assistants reported that they could seldom afford leave and were reluctant to ask for it even when they could. […]”
By Tamar Lewin
New York Times
January 26, 2010
Citing: U.S. Teenage Pregnancies, Births and Abortions: National and State Trends and Trends by Race and Ethnicity by the Guttmacher Institute.
“After more than a decade of declining teenage pregnancy, the pregnancy rate among girls ages 15 to 19 increased 3 percent from 2005 to 2006 — a turnaround likely to intensify the debate over federal financing for abstinence-only sex education.
The teenage abortion rate also crept up for the first time in more than a decade, rising 1 percent from 2005 to 2006, according to an analysis by the Guttmacher Institute, a nonpartisan nonprofit research group. […]
[…] The Guttmacher analysis examined federal data on teenage sex, births and abortion, along with the institute’s own abortion statistics.
[…] Lawrence Finer, director of domestic research for the Guttmacher Institute, said there was evidence that adolescent use of contraceptives had plateaued, or declined, adding that it was ‘an interesting coincidence’ that this had happened just as the focus on abstinence-only education had left fewer students getting comprehensive sex education. […]
According to the Guttmacher analysis, the teenage pregnancy rate declined 41 percent from its peak, in 1990, when there were 116.9 pregnancies per 1,000 women aged 15 to 19, and 2005, when there were only 69.5 per 1,000. In 2006, the rate rose to 71.5 pregnancies for 1,000 women.
Teenage birth and abortion rates also declined in that period, with births dropping 35 percent from 1991 to 2005 and teenage abortion declining 56 percent between its peak, in 1988, and 2005.”
By Paula Dvorak
January 26, 2010
Citing: The Three Faces of Work-Family Conflict: The Poor, The Professionals, and the Missing Middle by Joan C. Williams, Center for WorkLife Law, and Heather Boushey, Center for American Progress.
“[…R]ight now, most weeks, I actually pay to work. And I'm not the only one.
[…] Only recently did I begin quietly commiserating with others on the playground and learn that this is a common rite of passage for many parents of young children, when child-care costs are at their highest.
[…] It's a situation among middle-class and professional women that is becoming increasingly commonplace, according to a report released Tuesday by the Center for American Progress and the Center for WorkLife Law at the UC Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco.
Their report looks at the "Three Faces of Work-Family Conflict"--the poor, the middle class and the professionals--and how America's status as the hardest-working developed nation in the world clashes with the reality that we also have the paltriest options for family support.
One possible solution might come with President Obama's proposal this week to double the child-care tax credit for families earning less than $85,000 and to increase federal funding of programs by $1.6 billion.
And more help like this is necessary because now, for parents in this pickle, quitting a job to stay home with children -- especially in this economy -- is a shortsighted solution.
"If you're leaving the workforce to take care of your kids, that financial calculus may make sense in the immediate year or two," said Heather Boushey, a senior economist with the D.C.-based Center for American Progress and one of the authors of the study. "But looking at the long-term economic health of a family, that can be devastating."
When you step off a work path, you lose seniority, experience, benefits--workforce capital that is difficult to regain once the kids are in school (assuming they go to a free public school, of course).
[…] According to the National Women's Law Center, the percentage of women in the American workforce has increased by 35 percent since 1980. And the typical American middle-income family put in an average of 11 more hours a week at work in 2006 than it did in 1979, according to Boushey's report.
The availability and affordability of child care, however, is not rising at the same rate. […]”
To read the full article, click here. To download a free copy of the report, click here. To learn more about the Center for WorkLife Law, University of California, Hastings College of the Law, visit their website. To learn more about the Center for American Progress, visit their website.
Each selection includes a short excerpt from the research and a link to the report:
Institute for Women’s Policy Research
Ariane Hegewisch and Helen Luyri
“The Workforce Investment Act of 1998 (WIA) is the primary basis for federally funded workforce development. One of its stated purposes is to ‘increase the employment, retention and earnings of participants […].’ While earnings data suggest that both men and women benefit from WIA services, average earnings among women who received WIA services are significantly lower than average earnings for men. The data suggest that women's and men's participation in training for traditionally 'female' and 'male' occupations is a major factor contributing to the earnings gap between women and men who received WIA services. The gap is not the result of less extensive WIA services for women. During the current legislative session, Congress will consider the reauthorization of WIA. It is important to discuss policy measures that would more effectively target resources to increase female WIA service recipients’ earnings. Improving women’s earnings would help to promote and sustain the economic self-sufficiency of women and their families during the current recession and beyond.”
Institute for Women’s Policy Research
By Kevin Miller, Ph.D., and Claudia Williams
“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, with so many dual-earner and single-parent families, family members’ health needs can be addressed 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 co-workers and customers and, thus, are a fundamental public health measure. 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. Maine lawmakers are now considering LD 1665, 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 government-collected data, peer-reviewed research literature, and a thoroughly vetted methodology. Below are key findings from IWPR’s cost-benefit analysis.”
By Usha Ranji and Alina Salganicoff
The Henry K. Kaiser Family Foundation
“Women’s issues have emerged as central to the debate on health care reform. Access to abortion services has become one of the most highly charged elements of the debate. This issue has been handled differently in both the bill that was approved by the House of Representatives, H.R. 3962, the Affordable Health Care for America Act, and the bill approved by the Senate, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, H.R. 3590. The way that Congress addresses abortion coverage under health reform has the potential to affect many women, as abortion is one of the most common surgical procedures performed on women. In 2005, there were more than 1.2 million abortions in the United States. It is estimated that at current rates, about a third of women will have had an abortion by age 45. This brief discusses current law regarding federal and state policies that address abortion coverage, lays out key issues being debated regarding abortion coverage under health reform, and raises questions about the possible impact of the House and Senate legislation on women’s coverage for abortion services.”
The Henry K. Kaiser Family Foundation
“Health care continues to be a fundamental policy priority for women, reflecting their experiences with the health care system as patients, mothers, and caregivers for frail and disabled family members. Women’s priorities for health care reform cut across a range of topics, including access to health insurance coverage, health care affordability, scope of benefits, reproductive health, and long-term care. This brief highlights the key issues for women that arise in the context of health reform, and are still under debate. It focuses on the current leading proposals from the House of Representatives, which passed the Affordable Health Care for America Act (HR 3962) on November 7, 2009, and the Senate, which is currently debating a bill, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (HR 3590). Should the Senate pass a bill, differences between the bills from the two chambers will need to be negotiated and reconciled in a conference committee before a single, final bill can be presented for vote, approval by the President, and ultimately enacted into law.”
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