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June 2006 RNR

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June 2006

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 itself or a citation. We sometimes include short pieces in their entirety.

In this edition:

  1. Gender, Marriage, and Asset Accumulation in the United States
  2. Disparities in Rates of Unintended Pregnancy in the U.S., 1994 and 2001
  3. Taxes are a Woman’s Issue: Reframing the Debate
  4. Mom’s Retirement Security


1. Gender, Marriage, and Asset Accumulation in the United States

Lucie Schmidt and Purvi Sevak

Feminist Economics, Volume 12, Number 1.

January/April 2006

This article examines wealth accumulation and distribution in the United States using data from the 2001 Panel Study of Income Dynamics and data from the National Institute on Aging. The authors estimate and analyze differences in the distribution of wealth by gender and family type and the extent to which factors like education, children, inheritance, and family earnings close the wealth gap between different household types and men and women. In addition, a potential cohort effect is explored by examining differences in wealth accumulation between younger and older adults. Schmidt and Sevak find that:

  • Single female-headed households hold substantially less than 50% of the amount of wealth held by married couple households.
  • Having children aged 18-24 is associated with lower wealth levels in all wealth percentiles except the 25th (the least wealthy quartile).
  • Even after controlling for observable differences, the median wealth of households headed by single-females differed from the median wealth of married households by about 40% of overall median wealth.
  • In analysis that considered the effect of economies of scale on a household, single-headed households faired better than married households, but female-headed households still faired worse than male-headed ones.
  • When examining a younger cohort, there are no significant differences in wealth based on marital status or gender.

This report concludes that even though gains have been made for women, including increased labor force participation rates and increased education attainment, a significant gap in wealth still exists based on gender and marital status. These differences prevail across the wealth distribution.

Information on the full article is available at:

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2. Disparities in Rates of Unintended Pregnancy in the U.S., 1994 and 2001

Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, 2006, Vol 38, No 2.

Lawrence B Finer and Stanley K Henshaw

Guttmacher Institute

June 2006

A new report published by the Guttmacher Institute looks at rates of unintended pregnancy and abortion in the United States among different demographic groups at two points in times: 1994 and 2001. The report relies on data from the National Survey of Family Growth in 1994 and 2001, the Current Population Survey and its March Demographic Supplement, and Census estimates of the female population in July 1994 and July 2001 to assess changes over time in rates of unintended pregnancy by age, race, marital status, and income. Findings include:

  • In 2001 the proportion of intended and unintended pregnancies were 51% and 49% respectively.
  • Between 1994 and 2001 the intended pregnancy rate fell by 40% among women aged 15-19. The unintended pregnancy rate also fell in this age group, but less steeply.
  • The unintended pregnancy rate ranged from 112 per 1,000 among women whose income was below the poverty line to 29 per 1,000 among those whose income was at least twice the poverty level.
  • Among women aged 20 and older, those without a high school diploma were three times as likely as college graduates to have an unintended pregnancy.
  • Hispanic women in poverty had a particularly high rate of unintended pregnancy at over 160 unintended pregnancies per 1,000 women. But, among women whose income was at or above the poverty line, the rate of unintended pregnancy was substantially higher for black women at over 80 unintended pregnancies per 1,000 women compared with Hispanic and White women.

The report notes that while the unintended pregnancy rate was similar in 1994 and 2001, this overall lack of change masks increases in rates for particular demographic groups, especially women aged 18-24, low-income women, and minority women. Further, the report recommends a reduction in the barriers to obtaining effective contraceptives in order to prevent unintended pregnancy.

The full report can be found at:

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3. Taxes are a Woman’s Issue: Reframing the Debate

Mimi Abramovitz and Sandra Morgen with the National Council for Research on Women

Feminist Press


This book addresses tax issues that are of particular importance to women. The book outlines how women are affected by taxes, U.S. tax policy, the U.S. dual welfare system, and how recent changes in tax policy disadvantage women and their families.

The book draws on information from various sources including the U.S. Census Bureau, the U.S. Office of Management and Budget, the Social Security Administration, the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, and the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center. It also includes interview and survey results about taxation’s real-life impacts on women.

The book emphasizes that because women’s income is more likely to come from wages than wealth, policies that disproportionately favor taxing income hurt women. Additionally, since 2001, the top 1% of taxpayers has seen 12% in tax cuts, while low-income taxpayers received only 3% in cuts. The book also warns readers about recent tax policy changes, noting that while some tax credits and cuts have positively impacted low-income taxpayers, who are disproportionately women, many are actually of greater benefit and value to wealthier people.

The book spells out a number of policy recommendations including eliminating the earnings caps on Social Security taxes, and protecting and extending the Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit. It also recommends that the government protect need-based programs such as Medicaid and financing for public housing, close loopholes for corporations, and promote better tax literacy and data collection.

The executive summary and information on ordering the book itself are available at:

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4. Mom’s Retirement Security

Catherine Hill

American Association of University Women Educational Foundation

May 2006

This report discusses the results of the AAUW’s survey of adult children and their perceptions of their mothers’ retirement security and the importance of Social Security to women’s economic well-being in retirement. Results show that among those whose mothers have reached retirement age, the importance of Social Security is well understood. Survey respondents whose parents have yet to reach retirement age tended to downplay the program’s importance, as did respondents in general, when asked about their own retirement. Other major survey findings include:

  • 45% of women surveyed reported knowing a lot about their mom’s financial circumstances as compared with only 34% of men.
  • Only 6% of adult children with mothers 65 and over reported providing financial support for their mothers.
  • While 34% of respondents with mothers 65 and older identified Social Security as their mom’s top source of income, only 15% believed that Social Security would be their primary source of income when they retire.

The report states that Social Security will continue to be the largest source of retirement income for both men and women in the coming years and cautions against privatization plans that would reduce Social Security benefits.

To read this report:

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