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September 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.

September 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. “Study Fails to Find Link on Abortion, Mental Health "
2. “More U.S. Women Getting Birth Control Services "
3.“Botox and Blush Obsession Seen as Cause for Alarm ”
4. "Blogging’s Glass Ceiling "

Research Reports
1. The Gender Wage Gap: 2007
2. 18 to 80: Women on Politics and Society
3. Staying Afloat in Tough Times: What States Are and Aren’t Doing to Promote Family Economic Security
4. A Platform for Progress: Building a Better Future for Women and Their Families
5. Appointed Policy Makers in State Government: Glass Ceiling in Gubernatorial Appointments, 1997-2007
6. Ensuring Quality Care for Low-Income Babies: Contracting Directly with Providers to Expand and Improve Infant and Toddler Care

Research Making News _____________________________

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

“Study Fails to Find Link on Abortion, Mental Health”

The Wall Street Journal
By Stephanie Simon
August 14, 2008

Citing: Report of the American Psychological Association Task Force on Mental Health and Abortion by Brenda Major, Mark Appelbaum, and Linda Beckman of the American Psychological Association.

The American Psychological Association said Wednesday [August 13, 2008] there is "no credible evidence" that a single, elective abortion causes mental-health problems for adult women.

[…] Women's psychological reaction to the procedure has become a key issue in the abortion debate, with some judges and lawmakers citing mental-health concerns as reason to impose restrictions on abortion.

The psychological association's conclusion—posted on the group's web site—didn't address possible mental-health effects on teenagers, who account for about 17% of all abortions in the U.S.

About half of the 1.2 million abortions a year in this country are to women who have had one or more prior abortions; they were also left out of the report's conclusion. The association called for more research on these groups, along with more carefully designed studies in general.”

To view the full article, visit The Wall Street Journal online.

To view the Report of the American Psychological Association Task Force on Mental Health and Abortion, click here:

“‘More U.S. Women Getting Birth Control Services”

The Washington Post
By Kathleen Doheny
August 13, 2008

Citing: Trends in U.S. Women’s Use of Sexual and Reproductive Health Care Services, 1995-2002, by Jennifer J. Frost, published in the American Journal of Public Health, October 2008.

“More U.S. women are availing themselves of contraceptives services, such as birth control pill prescriptions, according to a new national survey.

From 1995 to 2002, the percentage of American women who said they received contraceptive services rose from 36 percent to 41 percent
, according to Jennifer J. Frost, a senior research associate at the Guttmacher Institute in New York City, and author of the survey report published in the October issue of the American Journal of Public Health.

[…] While the survey findings are encouraging, Frost said, "There's room for improvement."

[…] While 76 percent of the respondents said they got services mostly from private health care providers, about one-fourth said they went to a public clinic or other public facility. And those who went to the publicly funded clinics got a broader range of services, according to the survey.

[…] Dr. Vanessa Cullins, vice president for medical affairs at Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said the survey's findings ‘highlight changes that hopefully will become trends.’

Specifically, she was talking about the finding that most women received services from private doctors. ‘This suggests that private providers are beginning to focus on the contraceptive needs of women,’ she said.”

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

To purchase or view the abstract of Trends in U.S. Women’s Use of Sexual and Reproductive Health Care Services, 1995-2002, click here:

“Botox and Blush Obsession Seen as Cause for Alarm”

By Jill Serjeant
August 18, 2008

Citing: Beauty at Any Cost by the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA).

“America's obsession with beauty is posing serious problems for the health and economic well-being of women and young girls, according to a report on Monday [August 18, 2008] on the pursuit of physical perfection and the rise in cosmetic surgery.

The nonprofit YWCA in the United States said women and girls are spending increasing amounts of money in their bid to look like idealized, air-brushed magazine models.

The report, Beauty at any Cost, noted U.S. women spent some $7 billion a year, or an average of about $100 each, on cosmetics and beauty products.

That $100 a month, if saved and invested for five years, would pay for a full year of tuition and fees at a public college, the report calculated.

[…] The report cites other research linking smoking to attempts by women and girls to control their weight. It notes that some ingredients in U.S. cosmetics, such as hair sprays and nail polishes, contain phthalates that have been shown to cause liver and reproductive system damage in animals.” 

To view the full article, visit Reuters online.

To view Beauty at Any Cost, click here:

Blogging’s Glass Ceiling

The New York Times
By Kara Jesella
July 27, 2008

Citing: BlogHer/Compass Partners 2008 Social Media Benchmark Study by BlogHer and Compass Partners and data from the Pew Internet and American Life Project.

“Blogging has come a long way from its modest beginnings. These days, there is money to be made, fame to be earned and influence to be gained. And though women and men are creating blogs in roughly equal numbers, many women [… believe] that they are not taken as seriously as their male counterparts at, say, Daily Kos, a political blog site. Nor, they said, were they making much money, even though corporations seem to be making money from them.

[…] There is a measure of parity on the Web. According to the Pew Internet and American Life Project, among Internet users, 14 percent of men and 11 percent of women blog.

A study conducted by BlogHer and Compass Partners last year found that 36 million women participate in the blogosphere each week, and 15 million of them have their own blogs.

[…] Yet, when Techcult, a technology web site, recently listed its top 100 Web celebrities, only 11 of them were women. Last year, ran a similar list, naming four women on its list of 25.

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

To read more about the BlogHer/Compass Partners 2008 Social Media Benchmark Study, click here:

To read more from the Pew Internet and American Life Project on How Women and Men Use the Internet (December 2005), click here:

To view Techcult’s “Top 100 Web Celebrities,” click here:

To view’s “The Web Celeb 25,” click here:


Research Reports _________________________________

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

The Gender Wage Gap: 2007

Institute for Women’s Policy Research
August 2008

“The ratio of the annual averages of women’s and men’s median annual earnings was 77.8 for full-time workers in 2007, up from 76.9 in 2006. (This means the gender wage gap is now 22.2 percent.) This is the highest earnings ratio ever, surpassing the previous high of 77.0 in 2005. The annual earnings figure reflects gender differences in both hourly wages and the number of hours worked each year. If part-time and part-year workers were included, the ratio would be much lower, as women are more likely than men to work reduced schedules in order to manage child-rearing and other caregiving work.

Women’s real (inflation-adjusted) annual earnings rose 5.0 percent from 2006 to 2007, to $35,102, while men’s increased 3.8 percent, to $45,113. This was the first uptick in women’s annual earnings following four consecutive years of losses, and the first increase for men after three consecutive declines.

Another measure of women’s earning ability—the ratio of women’s to men’s median weekly earnings, for full-time workers—was 80.2 in 2007, down from the historical high of 81.0 in 2005. The annual ratio, which includes self-employed workers, tends to be slightly lower than the weekly ratio (which includes full-time workers who work only part of the year), although the two series exhibit the same general trend over the long term.

Progress in closing the gender earnings gap has slowed considerably since 1990, as measured by both data series. While the gender earnings ratio for annual earnings increased by 11.4 percentage points from 1980 to 1990, it grew by only 6.2 percentage points over the next 17 years.”

To view the full fact sheet, click here:


18 to 80: Women on Politics and Society

Garin-Hart-Yang Research for EMILY’s List
August 2008

“This report presents the key findings of the 2008 EMILY’s List Women’s Monitor, which began in 1996 and is a series of periodic studies that allows observers to assess women voters’ role in federal elections. This current national survey focuses specifically on generational trends in women’s voting preferences as well as basic orientations to core social trends, with a special emphasis on examining women voters from Generation Y (currently age 18 to 27), Generation X (currently age 28 to 43), the Baby Boom generation (currently age 44 to 62) and the Senior generation (currently age 63 and over).

[…] With so much focus this year on women voters’ crucial role and their level of engagement in this historic presidential election, this study’s findings provide important insights into identifying and understanding the dominant trends shaping women voters’ preferences as they head into the 2008 elections. The analysis is divided into three components that make up the main sections of this report: 1. Snapshot of Key Electoral Dynamics among Women Voters; 2. Profile of Key Generational Trends within the Women’s Electorate; and 3. Perceptions of Women’s Role in American Life.

[…] The Mood Among the Electorate: As the parties head into their conventions, women voters express an acutely negative view of the country’s direction and a decidedly pessimistic assessment of their own personal situations.

[…] The Presidential Race: Against this backdrop, women voters give Barack Obama a strong 12-point marginal advantage over John McCain at this point in the presidential race (51% to 39%).

[…] The Race for Congress: Democrats have a decisive 19-point advantage over Republicans in the generic congressional trial heat (55% to 36%). This significant margin frames 2008 as a potentially historic year in terms of Democrat’s performance with women voters.

[…] While women voters are resoundingly upbeat about many tangible examples of the progress that women in America have achieved and the changes that are occurring, they also are consistent in their articulation of the obstacles and challenges that remain. Most notably, three in four women voters (76%) say that sexism remains a serious problem for women today and this sentiment is echoed by more than seven in 10 women in each of the four generational cohorts. Consistent with that assertion, women overwhelmingly reject the notion that women today have equal opportunities and equal treatment with men in the workplace—61% of all women think that is untrue, and notably older women are even more adamant on this measure than younger women, with 69% of Boomers and 61% of Seniors rejecting the notion that equality in the workplace has been achieved, whereas 57% of Gen X and 50% of Gen Y say the same.”

To view the full report, click here:

To view more key findings of the report, click here:


Staying Afloat in Tough Times: What States Are and Aren’t Doing to Promote Family Economic Security

Sarah Fass, Jodie Briggs, Nancy K. Cauthen
National Center for Children in Poverty
August 2008

“These are challenging economic times for America’s families. Low- and moderate-income workers are seeing their wages stagnate or decline, while the cost of basic necessities continues to rise. The economy is losing jobs, unemployment rates are rising, fami­lies are losing their homes, and food and gas prices are skyrocketing.

Forgotten in the policy discussions about these new economic realities is the profound effect that economic hardship can have on children. Ongoing exposure to economic hardship, especially when children are young, can compromise their devel­opment—limiting their opportunities, academic achievement, and future health and productivity. Research consistently shows that, on average, families need an income of about twice the federal poverty level to make ends meet. Currently, 39 percent of America’s children are living in families with low incomes, that is, incomes under twice the federal poverty level, or roughly $42,000 for a family of four in 2008. This kind of widespread economic hardship has the potential to hinder our nation’s competitiveness in the global economy.

[…] Employment is the linchpin of family economic well-being. This report examines three types of policies that make it possible for parents to join the workforce and that promote job stability and advancement:

1. Child care affordability and access.
Parents need access to stable child care to be able to find and maintain employment, and high-quality child care is critical for children’s healthy development. But good child care is expensive, and it is one of the biggest expenses working families face—in almost every state, child care fees for two children of any age exceed median rent costs. State subsidies and tax credits make quality care more affordable.

2. Access to health insurance.
Few low-wage workers receive health benefits through their employers. The availability of public health insurance for low-wage workers and their fami­lies facilitates the transition from cash assistance to work, ensuring that no one needs to become uninsured in the transition. Public coverage also increases job mobility by making it easier for workers to change jobs without fear of becoming uninsured. Having health insurance can protect families from financial devastation when they expe­rience a serious or chronic illness. And policies that keep workers and their children healthier reduce absenteeism and increase productivity.

3. Access to benefits for the unemployed.
Even short spells of unemployment can be devastating for low-income families living paycheck to paycheck. Unemployment insurance provides partial wage replacement to workers who are temporarily unemployed and seeking work, but states have wide discretion in determining which workers are eligible for benefits. Many common eligibility provisions exclude low-wage workers from coverage.”

To view the full report, click here:


A Platform for Progress: Building a Better Future for Women and Their Families

National Women’s Law Center
August 2008

“In the coming years, actions by a new Administration, as well as Congress and the courts, will be critically important to the lives of women and their families. The National Women’s Law Center’s broad Platform for Progress outlines steps that should be taken by the federal government to address the unmet needs of women and their families in schools and in the workplace, and in securing basic economic security and access to quality, affordable and comprehensive health care.

Why are reforms needed?

  1. One in four girls drops out of high school, resulting in an average annual income that falls $9,100 below even the low wages earned by male high school dropouts.
  2. Women working full time today earn, on average, only 77 cents for every dollar paid to men and face wage gaps and glass ceilings across a wide spectrum of occupations.
  3. More than 14 million women—one in eight—live in poverty, and single women, women of color and elderly women are especially vulnerable.
  4. More than 17 million women have no health insurance.
  5. Federal child care assistance is provided to only one in seven eligible children.
  6. Nearly half of all pregnancies are unintended.

The National Women’s Law Center’s Platform for Progress is designed to address these and other critical problems through concrete proposals that the federal government can adopt and implement to meet its responsibility to help women and their families reach their potential and lead economically secure lives. Some of these proposals can be adopted and implemented quickly, and some will take more time. All demand immediate attention.”

To view the full report, click here:


Appointed Policy Makers in State Government: Glass Ceiling in Gubernatorial Appointments, 1997-2007

Judith R. Saidel, Susan Appe, Angela Chen Dalton, Cara-Aimee Long, Alison C. Olin
Center for Women in Government and Civil Society
Summer 2008

“The glass ceiling remains intact for women appointed policy leaders in the executive branch of most state governments.

  1. The percentage of top-ranking executive leadership positions held by women has increased, but not by much. By 2007, women held 35% of executive posts, compared to 28% in 1997.
  2. On the other hand, there is some evidence of women’s more significant progress: 26 of the 50 states reached a higher level of gender representativeness in the executive branch of state government in 2007 than in 1997. Gender representativeness at the .75 level or higher was reached in 15 states. Governors in six states—Alaska, Connecticut, Montana, Nevada, Vermont, and Washington—have appointed women to top-ranking posts at the representativeness level of .90 or higher. 1.0 = full representativeness.
  3. With respect to race and ethnicity, the demographics of executive branch policy leaders changed very little between 1997 and 2007. Eighteen states are still below the halfway point in achieving full representativeness; 14 states have achieved representativeness at the .75 level or higher.
  4. Between 1997 and 2007, governors appointed substantially more women as department heads (9 percentage points more), but only 2.4 percentage points more women as their closest staff advisors. Women remain underrepresented at the helm of executive agencies and in governors’ executive offices.
  5. Over the 11-year period from 1997-2007, the percentage of women top advisors increased by a mere 2.4 percentage points. By 2007, the total number of white women in governors’ offices in all 50 states increased by only 16. For African American, Latina, and American Indian women, the gain in numbers was stunningly low: 1, 3, and 3 respectively. Asian American women lost three positions.
  6. Agencies in functional areas traditional for women—health, labor/human resources, public welfare/employment security, civil/human rights, and education—continue to have the highest concentration of women department heads. At the same time, nationally, the highest number of women exercising executive leadership in any functional area is in the somewhat nontraditional budget/finance/administration category.”

To view the full report, click here:


Ensuring Quality Care for Low-Income Babies: Contracting Directly with Providers to Expand and Improve Infant and Toddler Care

Hannah Matthews and Rachel Schumacher
Center for Law and Social Policy
July 2008

“State policies, in particular child care subsidy policies, can help to build the supply and improve the quality of available care[….] One way states are doing this activity is by contracting directly with child care providers for high-quality infant and toddler care. Contracts guarantee a number of infant/toddler child care spaces with a particular provider and, importantly, may require and support higher quality standards beyond basic health and safety provisions of state licensing regulations, thereby increasing the supply and quality of available care.

[…] This paper explores the potential of contracts to address issues of supply and quality in the provision of infant and toddler child care.

[…] Both vouchers and contracts provide distinct benefits for low-income families in need of child care. A mixed-approach of vouchers and contracts may help states achieve multiple goals. The focus of this paper is on how contracts may expand and improve infant and toddler care.

[…] Based on conversations with policy makers and others, CLASP identified the following reasons that states may use contracts for infant and toddler care:

  1. To create or stabilize care in particular communities or for specific populations;
  2. To create child care slots meeting quality standards important for infants and toddlers, including requiring the provision of comprehensive services and family supports;
  3. To extend the day for infants and toddlers in Early Head Start; and
  4. To improve the quality of family child care.”

To view the full report, click here:



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