Women in NC lag in economic secuirty
Progressive Pulse links to a preliminary findings for an upcoming report from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research on the economic status of women in North Carolina. This Sunday, “Women’s Equality Day,” celebrates the date that women won the right to vote in the United States. This new report shows, however, that we have a long way to go before we can truly say that women have achieved equality.
The findings show that when it comes to wages, poverty, child care, and housing, women bear the costs and fall behind their male counterparts. Sixty percent of women are now participating in the labor force, compared to 43 percent in 1970 and 34 percent in 1950. Despite higher levels of education, women’s earnings are still $7,000 less than comparable men. When comparing men and women at the same educational level, the gap widens. For example, although more women have at least a Bachelor’s degree, these women earn $20,000 less than men with the same level of education. More women also have some college or an Associate degree, but their earnings fall short by $10,000. The disparities are greater when comparing among women by races and ethnicity. See the chart below.
The report makes a good point, that it takes more than just wages and jobs to achieve security:
“While labor force participation and earnings may help many women achieve financial security, additional issues– such as the gender wage gap and the high cost of child care– hinder women’s ability to achieve economic stability for themselves and their families.”
Child care, in particular, is a huge burden. With the annual fees ranging anywhere from $6,000 to $9,000 per year, depending on the type of child care, poor or low-income families would hardly be able to afford this. This is a particular burden for households headed by single moms, which earn the lowest median annual income of all household types (about $20,400). Without the right supports to help with child care, housing, and other costs, getting and maintaining a job would be nearly impossible for many women.
It is no wonder, then, that the poverty rate for women is higher than men, particularly in rural areas. And again, when comparing by race and ethnicity, the poverty rates for women of color are shockingly high (see below).
As the report says, “When women thrive, whole communities and regions thrive.” One area that might provide some promise is business ownership. Twenty-eight percent of businesses in the state are women-owned, and North Carolina ranks 17th for women-owned businesses. But still, these significant disparities show that many women are not being given the opportunity to thrive. Particularly for low-income women and women of color, getting a job is just one piece of the puzzle. In order for them to stay and advance in their jobs, they need equitable pay and benefits, affordable housing and child care, and the opportunity for economic mobility. Without these things, many of our state’s women, their families, and their communities will continue to face economic hardships and instability.