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Summer 2007 RNR

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

Summer 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. Executive Summary of Women in the Wake of the Storm: Examining the Post-Katrina Realities of the Women of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast
  2. Maternity Care and Consumer-Driven Health Plan
  3. Report Card on State Action to Combat International Trafficking
  4. An Economy That Puts Families First
  5. The 2007 Hollywood Writers Report: Whose Stories Are We Telling?
  6. Behind the Pay Gap


1. Executive Summary of Women in the Wake of the Storm: Examining the Post-Katrina Realities of the Women of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast

Avis Jones-DeWeever
The Institute for Women’s Policy Research

June 2007

This executive summary of a forthcoming report shares findings gathered from a series of interviews held with a diverse group of women from the Gulf Coast region about their experiences post-Hurricane Katrina. It points to women’s increased vulnerability during natural disasters and lays out policy recommendations that pinpoint how best to address those needs in the wake of this particular disaster, and in anticipation of those to come. The summary also provides an overarching race, class, and gender analysis of the post-Katrina experiences of women, with a special emphasis on what they are doing now to rebuild their lives, reconstruct their homes, restore their families, and reclaim their communities.

Key findings laid out in the executive summary include:

  • In the Gulf Coast region, women are experiencing increased exposure to violence and sexual assault as a result of the overwhelming housing shortage. It has been estimated that nearly four-fifths of housing units lost to the storm (79%) were low-income housing. The shortage in affordable housing has forced many women and girls to choose between living in an environment with physical and sexual assault or shelters which may endanger themselves or their children.
  • In New Orleans, two-thirds of child care facilities remain closed, creating a significant barrier to work for mothers seeking to reenter the workforce. Women are also experiencing job discrimination, especially in the field of construction and manual labor, making it more difficult to support themselves or their families.
  • The lack of health care facilities also impacts women who now find themselves struggling to pay health care costs while living in poverty or, if they cannot afford insurance at all, fearing what will happen in another crisis or disaster. Also, almost all of the women interviewed felt a need for mental health care due to the heightened levels of stress they experience in the aftermath of the storm.

In conclusion, the research prompted several policy suggestions to better address the needs of women in times of natural disaster. These suggestions include making affordable housing a top priority, incorporating women in the rebuilding of the region’s economy through non-traditional training and enforcement of antidiscrimination laws, increasing the availability and quality of child care and schools, and better addressing the physical and mental health care needs of women. The final recommendation is to include women in decision-making processes around rebuilding and future disaster planning.

The executive summary is available at

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2. Maternity Care and Consumer-Driven Health Plans

The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation

June 2007

Prepared by Karen Pollitz and Mila Kofman of Georgetown University’s Health Policy Institute and Alina Salganicoff and Usha Ranji of the Kaiser Family Foundation

This report examines coverage of maternity care under consumer-driven health plans (CDHPs). Specifically, it estimates the costs of maternity care in three different clinical scenarios—an uncomplicated vaginal delivery, an uncomplicated Cesarean delivery, and a pregnancy with considerable complications. Using these three scenarios, the study compares the level of coverage and costs associated with a traditional insurer and various types of CDHPs.

The report found the following:

  • Given an uncomplicated vaginal delivery, the report estimates that a pregnancy would cost a total of $9,660 in allowable charges. With the traditional insurance policy, the estimated out-of-pocket costs total $1,445. With the HSA-qualified CDHPs, out-of-pocket costs ranged from $3,000 to $7,000. In the case of an individual plan CDHP, the out-of-pocket cost for an uncomplicated pregnancy would be $7,884.
  • With an uncomplicated Cesarean delivery, the report estimates the total cost at $12, 453. The study found that out-of-pocket costs for the patient would total $2,244 under the traditional policy and ranged from $3,545 to $9,818 under the CDHPs.
  • In the case of a pregnancy with considerable complications, the total allowable charges were estimated to be $287,453. Under a traditional insurance policy, the family’s share of the cost may reach $8,770. By contrast, the report estimates that the patient’s share of the cost under CDHPs would total anywhere from $14,000 to $21,194, with the exception of one CDHP that does not require additional cost sharing for maternity care after the deductible is met.

The report concludes that pregnant women face high out-of-pocket costs under CDHPs, particularly when complications arise. With the various CDHPs, women and families might be left with thousands of dollars in medical expenses resulting from the high deductibles and cost sharing requirements of the plans. The report also emphasizes that, in general, coverage for maternity care in the individual insurance market is extremely limited. In comparison to traditional health plans, CDHPs have created more financial responsibility for patients for the cost of their medical care.

The full report is available at

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3. Report Card on State Action to Combat International Trafficking

Center for Women's Policy Studies

May 2007

This state-by-state analysis examines the efforts of state legislators to confront international trafficking of women and girls into the United States. The report analyzes each state’s laws in terms of its responsiveness to the legislative suggestions the Center for Women’s Policy Studies included in their Resource Guide for State Legislators in 2005. Each state received a letter grade in the following categories laid out in the 2005 guide: criminalization, victim protection and services, statewide interagency task force, regulation of marriage brokers, and regulation of travel service providers that promote sex tourism. Since 2002, more than half of the states have enacted some form of anti-trafficking legislation. States that had not yet enacted such laws as of December 31, 2006 received a grade of “F”.

Some of the key findings of the report include:

  • Legislation making trafficking a state felony offense was enacted in half of all states: Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, and Washington.
  • Eleven states now have laws for victim protections and provision of services: California, Connecticut, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, and Washington.
  • In 2002, Washington created the first statewide task force in the United States on human trafficking. As of December 31, 2006, laws creating similar task forces or state study commissions have been passed in nine additional states: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Minnesota, and Nebraska.
  • Four states have enacted laws to regulate international marriage brokers operating within state lines: Hawaii, Missouri, Texas, and Washington.
  • In 2004, Hawaii became the first state to regulate travel agencies and other facilities that promote sex tourism. In 2006, Alaska, Missouri, and Washington enacted similar laws.
  • Twenty-three states out of 50 received grades of “F” in each of the five categories assessed by the Center for Women’s Policy Studies, meaning they enacted no such laws to combat human trafficking.

The report emphasizes the importance of continued legislative efforts to respond to the international trafficking of women and girls and calls on states that have not enacted laws to prevent trafficking to join these efforts.

The full report is available at

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4. An Economy That Puts Families First

Heidi Hartmann, Ariane Hegewisch, and Vicky Lovell

May 2007

Institute for Women’s Policy Research as part of the Economic Policy Institute’s Agenda for Shared Prosperity

This Briefing Paper sets out a comprehensive framework to construct a more family-friendly US economy. According to the authors, the makeup of the typical American family has been redefined over the past few decades, as the most common family type with children today is the two-earner couple (47% in 2005). At the same time, the standard workweek for two-parent families increased their annual work schedules by 500 hours between 1970 and 2000. As family and workplace dynamics have changed drastically, US economic policies have failed to keep up. In fact, the US has far fewer family-friendly policies than most nations with advanced economies.

Major findings include:

  • Families headed solely by females are disproportionately poor, with 29% of female headed families living in poverty compared to 5% of families headed by married couples.
  • Approximately 18% of all American children are poor. The burdens of low pay and poverty fall disproportionately on children of color with 10% of white children living in poverty compared with 29% of minority children.
  • The US has the weakest family leave laws for childrearing and illness of any wealthy nation.
  • The Healthy Families Act, which requires that employees provide their workers with seven paid sick days per year, would save employers about $2.8 billion per year through reducing employee turnover.

The Briefing Paper concludes that a comprehensive family policy program is needed to make the US more family-friendly and to enable workers to combine work and family responsibilities more easily. The suggested program would be part of a new social contract spreading the cost of family care beyond the nuclear family structure and helping to redistribute the burden of care between men and women within the family. The plan laid out sets priorities for the next ten years in three policy areas: those that subsidize the cost of care; those that provide income replacement while workers are providing care; and those that leademployers to change their behavior and make the jobs they offer more family-friendly. IWPR and the Economic Policy Institute argue that following this plan would help to expand and modernize our social contract and bring badly needed reform to our outdated and inadequate public policy.

The full report is available at

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5. The 2007 Hollywood Writers Report: Whose Stories Are We Telling?

Writers Guild of America, West

May 2007

In May, the Writers Guild of America, West (WGAW) released the 2007 Hollywood Writers Report, the sixth in a series examining employment earnings and earnings trends for writers in Hollywood film and television industries. The report combined data from the WGAW’s computer database of membership earnings and recent trends in hiring for television series to highlight three groups of writers who have been traditionally underrepresented on the basis of gender, ethnicity, and age. According to the report, the gender gap between female and male television writers was nearly eliminated, dropping from over $4000 in 1999 to just under $300 in 2005. While the television sector has become increasingly open to female participation, the film sector has not followed the same trend, nearly doubling the gender gap over the same period. Hollywood, and in particular the film industry, remains primarily dominated by white males. The recent report shows there are few signs that the overarching industry dominance of white males is fading and call for increased measures to speed along proportional representation and pay equity.

Some of the findings include:

  • Women constitute slightly more than half of the US population, but their share of industry employment has remained between 20 and 20 percent since 1982, the first year the WGAW conducted research in the area. The gender employment gap continues to be the largest in film where women have made no progress since 1999.
  • While minorities constitute nearly one third of the US population, they have never claimed more than 10 percent of television employment or 6 percent of film employment.
  • Women writers appeared to close the gender earnings gap in television by 2005, yet the earnings gap in film doubled from $24,000 to $40,000 between 2004 and 2005.
  • While older writers (over the age of 40) dominate the higher status positions in the television sector, younger writers enjoy the highest overall median earnings and employment rate. The typical over-40 writer earned nearly $10,000 less than his/her younger counterpart. This trend continues even as the median age in the US steadily increases.
  • In 2005, white male writers continued to out-earn all other groups of writers in the industry. The pay gap between average earnings for white and minority writers reached a 15 year peak, as minority writers made 86% of what white writers did.

The report concludes with an appeal to rethink business as usual and calls for a new paradigm to promote industry diversity. The Writers Guild of America, West identifies opportunities for change that might be seized in the future, with hopes of institutionalizing forward-thinking approaches that may become the new standard of employment.

The full report is available at

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6. Behind the Pay Gap

American Association of University Women

April 2007

The American Association of University Women recently released Behind the Pay Gap, a report detailing the current effects of the gender pay gap for college graduates. While controlling for hours, occupation, parenthood, and other factors, the report finds that college-educated women earn less than their male counterparts. Although there has been a dramatic increase in women’s participation in higher-level education, the gender gap has only slightly narrowed. Choices such as area of study and selectivity of the college attended factor into level of earnings, but do not account for the full discrepancy in pay between men and women. The study finds a substantial pay gap in the initial years after college among educated, full-time workers, suggesting that educational achievement alone will not solve the problem. Despite the progress that women have made, pay equity remains an issue in need of public attention and federal reform.

The study’s findings include:

  • In their first year after college graduation, full-time women workers earn only 80 percent of what their male peers earn. Ten years after graduation, women earn only 69 percent of what men earn
  • A gap in pay is found between men and women with the same college major one year after graduation. In education, a female-dominated major, women earn 95% of what their male colleagues earn. In the biological sciences, a mixed-gender major, women earn 75% as much as men. In Mathematics, a male-dominated major, women earn 76% as much as their male peers.
  • Women who attended highly selective colleges earn less than men from either highly or moderately selective colleges and about the same as men from minimally selective colleges.
  • Among college graduates working full-time one year after graduation, women as a group had a slightly higher grade point average (3.16 on a 4.0 scale) than their male counterparts (3.04 on a 4.0 scale). Women’s GPA’s were higher than men’s in every major, including mathematics and science.
  • Among women who graduated from college in 1992-1993 more than one-fifth of mothers were out of the work force in 2003, and another 17% were working part time.
  • According to the report, 5% of the gap one year after graduation and 12% ten years after gradation is unexplained by factors such as experience, training, education, and personal characteristics.

The authors conclude with a series of policy suggestions aimed at narrowing the pay gap and eliminating pay discrimination, including family-friendly work policy like paid family and medical leave and child care assistance. They suggest that women and young girls should continue to take advantage of higher-education opportunities and should be encouraged to pursue “nontraditional” majors such as mathematics, science, and engineering. Within the workplace, women should be trained to negotiate for higher pay and take action at work to ensure equitable policies.

The full report is available at

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