Research and Truth: Response to the Crisis at the Border

As researchers, data analysts, and social scientists, we often reach for facts and reliable information to light our way forward through difficult challenges. Research documents the profound and often irreparable harm caused by childhood trauma, such as separating children from their parents. Evidence also shows us the great economic and social power of women and their families—this power has and can continue to change policy for the betterment of all people.

Research can provide the stable ground where evidence-based decision-making can take root. Over the past few days and weeks, as we have witnessed the humanitarian crisis unfold at the southern U.S. border, a truth that transcends data or fact has emerged: we must do more to ensure that U.S. policies reflect the morality, empathy, and compassion that characterize a just society.

At this pivotal moment in our nation’s history, IWPR stands together with the many researchers and organizations speaking out on behalf of the human rights, health, and well-being of children and families.

Visit IWPR.org and statusofwomendata.org for information on the status of immigrant women in the United States and the organizations that work closely with them.

Equal Pay Act 55th Anniversary

June 10, 2018, marks the 55th anniversary of passage of the Equal Pay Act. On that day in 1963, President John F. Kennedy signed into law the act that, in his words, “prohibits the arbitrary discrimination against women in the payment of wages.”

John F Kennedy Celebrating Equal Pay Law
President Kennedy hands out pens at the White House signing of the Equal Pay Act on June 10, 1963. Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

What is the Equal Pay Act?

Here’s how the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) summarizes the Equal Pay Act (EPA):

The Equal Pay Act requires that men and women be given equal pay for equal work in the same establishment. The jobs need not be identical, but they must be substantially equal. It is job content, not job titles, that determines whether jobs are substantially equal. Specifically, the EPA provides that employers may not pay unequal wages to men and women who perform jobs that require substantially equal skill, effort and responsibility, and that are performed under similar working conditions.

The EPA also stipulates that when employers are required to correct a discriminatory difference in pay, they cannot reduce a higher-earner’s wages; instead, they must increase the lower-earner’s wages. Further, the EPA makes it illegal to retaliate against anyone for opposing practices that discriminate based on wages, filing a charge of discrimination, or participating in any way in an EPA investigation.

What have we gained since the Equal Pay Act?

When the EPA was passed, women earned 58.9 percent of what men earned, and the percentage was on a downward trend. Over the past fifty-five years, the gender pay gap has narrowed. In 2016, female full-time, year-round workers earned 80.5 percent of what men earned.

Earlier this year, a federal appeals court ruled that the EPA prohibits employers from paying women less than men based on women’s salary histories, which may help close the gender pay gap even further.

What progress do we still have to make on pay equality?

Despite these advances, there is still far to go. Even though the EPA makes it illegal to pay women less than men, according to IWPR research, women won’t reach parity until 2059 if trends over the past 30 years continue. The wait will be even longer for women of color: Black women won’t have equal pay until 2124, and Hispanic women won’t have equal pay until 2233.

What’s more, while the EPA focuses on eliminating pay inequality within “substantially equal” jobs, the profound gender segregation of the US labor market means that women and men tend to work in different occupations–and the jobs men tend to do pay much more. IWPR analyses of women in low-wage and middle-skill jobs has shown that many female-dominated jobs require similar skills and education to male-dominated jobs, yet pay much less. Research has found that more than half of the gender wage gap is due to this occupational and industry segregation.

As IWPR’s Ariane Hegewisch has said, “Perhaps the most important first step” in tackling gender inequality in these lower-wage jobs “is deciding that women’s work is valuable, and critical to the economy.” Concrete steps toward this recognition could include raising the minimum wage, guaranteeing paid sick days and family leave, ensuring fair scheduling, tackling wage theft and the underpayment of overtime rates, and increasing public subsidies for child care and elder care.

How have states and cities strengthened pay equality?

Under the EPA, the onus of proving wage discrimination rests on the worker. State and local efforts have sought to reverse this burden by requiring employers to prove that differences in pay are based on factors other than gender, such as legislation recently passed in New Jersey. Other local actions have focused on improving pay transparency, such as legislation in Washington, and banning employers from asking about salary history in the hiring process, such as legislation and executive orders in Massachusetts, New York City, and Chicagoamong others.

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IWPR has been researching the gender wage gap and occupational segregation since its founding in 1987. Since then, the Institute has changed the conversation on women’s pay and provided policymakers, journalists, and advocates the data they need to better inform the debate on women’s economic status.

Want to learn even more about the gender wage gap? Head to IWPR’s “Pay Equity & Discrimination” page. Also be sure to check out IWPR’s Status of Women in the States’ “Employment & Earnings” page to see how your state measures up on women’s pay.

Why We Should Invest in Single Mothers’ Higher Education

Why We Should Invest in Single Mothers’ Higher Education

By Rachel Karp

The number of single mothers in college has grown tremendously over the past decade. In the 2011-12 academic year alone, nearly 1.3 million single mothers were enrolled in two- and four-year institutions. But only 8 percent of single mothers who enroll in college graduate with a degree.

In a recently-released analysis, IWPR found that the economic returns to single mothers’ investment in a college education are enormous—for them and for society. Single mother graduates of two- and four-year colleges have lower poverty rates and higher annual and lifetime earnings than single mothers who do not attain college degrees. This means huge earnings gains for them and their families, as well as for society at large through increased tax contributions and reduced receipt of public benefits.

For Single Mothers:

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College Cuts Poverty

With each additional level of education, single mothers’ likelihood of living in poverty declines by an average of 32 percent. IWPR estimates that for single mothers who were enrolled in the 2011-12 academic year, over 21,000 would have left poverty after earning an associate degree and over 10,500 would have left poverty after earning a bachelor’s degree.

College Increases Earnings

Single mothers with associate degrees who work full-time, year-round earn $8,000 more than those with only high school degrees. Single mothers with bachelor’s degrees who work the same amount earn $18,500, or 62 percent, more.

These increases add up: over a lifetime, single mother graduates with associate degrees who work full-time, year-round earn nearly $329,500 more, and single mother graduates with bachelor’s degrees earn over $610,300 more, than those with only a high school diploma.

These increased lifetime earnings lead to substantial returns to single mother graduates from their own investments in two- and four-year degree programs. For every dollar a single mother graduate spends on an associate degree, her family gets back $16.45 in increased earnings; for a bachelor’s degree, each dollar invested brings her family a return of $8.50.

According to student mothers interviewed by IWPR, the desire to ensure their families’ future success played a key role in their decisions to attend college. One single mother student said:

I wanted to get a bachelor’s degree and be stable and be able to provide my son with a better home, with a better future…. I couldn’t do that with just a high school diploma.”

Another said:

I just wanted to get out of that cycle [of poverty], and I knew that I had to be a positive role model for my children so that they wouldn’t fall into that cycle and they know that, okay, it’s great that you graduate from high school, but there’s more work to be done.

3 girls graduating college

For Society:

Reduced Poverty Saves on Public Benefit Spending

The benefits of degree attainment extend beyond single mothers and their families. Each single mother graduate saves society over $1,800 in public benefit spending for herself and her family over a four-year period compared with those who do not have college degrees. For single mothers enrolled in the 2011-12 academic year, IWPR estimates this totaled $309 million over four years following degree attainment.

Higher Earnings Increase Tax Contributions

On average, each single mother with an associate degree contributes over $36,200 more in taxes over her lifetime than a single mother with only a high school diploma, and each single mother with a bachelor’s degree contributes over $84,200 more. For single mother graduates enrolled in the 2011-12 academic year, their total lifetime tax contributions are estimated at $7.8 billion more than if they had only earned high school degrees.

Investments that Help Single Mothers Graduate Pay Off

photo-1494451930944-8998635c2123Investment in services that would help single mothers graduate—such as child care, case management, and financial aid—would be more than compensated for by these increases in taxes and reductions in public benefit spending.  Investment in these services for a single mother pursuing a bachelor’s degree would cost an estimated $55,800 for the time that she was enrolled in college—much less than the $86,000 she would contribute in taxes and public benefit savings over her lifetime. An investment in these services for a single mother who graduates with an associate degree would cost an estimated $37,600, which would be offset by the $38,100 that she would contribute.

Without sufficient supports in place, single mothers face a range of obstacles to achieving college success. For many, there just aren’t enough hours in the day. One single mother shared how hard it was to find time to complete schoolwork and care for her family:

11 o’clock is when I start doing my homework until like four in the morning and then I have to wake up again at six in the morning.”

Another described the challenge of balancing school, family, and finances for both:

It’s just like Jenga: you take one piece out and it all falls down.”

Lack of access to child care often makes the tower tumble:

I felt like if I don’t have child care, I’m not going to be able to obtain my degree and I’m going to stay poor and I’m going to be living in the projects the rest of my life.

Investing in services that can help single student mothers persist in college can improve their college completion, benefit them and their families, and contribute to a stronger economy. As IWPR Vice President and Executive Director Barbara Gault has said, “Short-term investments in single mothers’ college success pay off enormously, and across multiple generations, after they graduate.”

Read even more about why we should invest in single mothers’ higher education in IWPR’s full analysis.

Research News Roundup – May 2018

RESEARCH MAKING THE NEWS

Single Moms in College Spend 9 Hours a Day on Housework

By Adam Harris |  | 5.11.2018

Every year around this time—when commencement season and Mother’s Day collide—moms across the country are praised for their grit and resolve. It’s a tough job for just about anyone. But for 2.1 million single mothers, according to the latest federal data, the normal difficulties are compounded by the stresses of going to college. For these moms, there may not be enough hours in the day to do all the tasks they have to do at home while still going to college. A new report from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, a think tank and advocacy group for advancing women’s status, breaks down the data on the amount of time single mothers in college are spending on their obligations outside of the classroom compared with women students without children. The analysis, based on data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ American Time Use Survey, is instructive—and eye-opening.

Citing: Time Demands of Single Mother College Students and the Role of Child Care in their Postsecondary Success by Lindsey Reichlin Cruse, Barbara Gault, and Joo Yeoun Suh at Institute for Women’s Policy Research and Mary Ann DeMario of Monroe Community College, May 2018

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Women earn more than men in these two (yes, two) industries

By Quentin Fottrell |  | 4.10.2018

The good news on Equal Pay Day: In a country where women earn 82 cents on the dollar compared to men, some women do actually out-earn their male peers. The bad news: It only happens in two industries. There are only two occupations where women’s median earnings are slightly higher than men’s, while there are 107 occupations in which women’s median earnings were 95% or less than men’s for the same jobs. Women working as “dining room and cafeteria attendants and bartender helpers” and “wholesale and retail buyers, except farm products” slightly out-earned men. Overall, women’s median earnings are lower than men’s in nearly all occupations. That’s according to new research released this week by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, a nonprofit think tank. Last year, the median gender pay gap was 81.8%, reflecting median weekly earnings of $770 for all female full-time workers and $941 per week for men.

Citing: The Gender Wage Gap by Occupation 2017 and by Race and Ethnicity by Ariane Hegewisch and Emma Williams-Baron at Institute for Women’s Policy Research, April 2018

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Cory Booker’s new big idea: guaranteeing jobs for everyone who wants one

By Dylan Matthew |  | 4.20.2018

Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) has a big idea: give 15 local areas federal money so they can guarantee all their residents a job. The Federal Jobs Guarantee Development Act, announced by Booker on Friday, would establish a three-year pilot program in which the Department of Labor would select up to 15 local areas (defined in the bill as any political subdivision of a state, like a city or a county, or a group of cities and counties) and offer that area funding so that every adult living there is guaranteed a job paying at least $15 an hour (or the prevailing wage for the job in question, whichever’s higher) and offering paid family/sick leave and health benefits.

Citing: The Federal Job Guarantee—A Policy to Achieve Permanent Full Employment by Mark Paul, William Darity, Jr., and Darrick Hamilton at Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, April 2018

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In 83 Million Eviction Records, a Sweeping and Intimate New Look at Housing in America

By Emily Badger and Quoctrung Bui |  | 4.7.2018

Before the first hearings on the morning docket, the line starts to clog the lobby of the John Marshall Courthouse. No cellphones are allowed inside, but many of the people who’ve been summoned don’t learn that until they arrive. “Put it in your car,” the sheriff’s deputies suggest at the metal detector. That advice is no help to renters who have come by bus. To make it inside, some tuck their phones in the bushes nearby. This courthouse handles every eviction in Richmond, a city with one of the highest eviction rates in the country, according to new data covering dozens of states and compiled by a team led by the Princeton sociologist Matthew Desmond. Two years ago, Mr. Desmond turned eviction into a national topic of conversation with “Evicted,” a book that chronicled how poor families who lost their homes in Milwaukee sank ever deeper into poverty.

Citing: The Eviction Lab database by Matthew Desmond

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The hidden crisis on college campuses: Many students don’t have enough to eat

By Caitlin Dewey |  | 4.3.2018

Caleb Torres lost seven pounds his freshman year of college — and not because he didn’t like the food in the dining hall. A first-generation college student, barely covering tuition, Torres ran out of grocery money halfway through the year and began skipping meals as a result. He’d stretch a can of SpaghettiOs over an entire day. Or he’d scout George Washington University campus for events that promised free lunch or snacks. Torres told no one what he was going through, least of all his single mom. “She had enough things to worry about,” he said. Now a senior and living off-campus, in a housing situation that supplies most of his meals,Torres is finally talking about his experience with the hunger problem on America’s college campuses: a quiet, insidious epidemic that researchers say threatens millions of students every year.

Citing: Still Hungry and Homeless in College by Sara Goldrick-Rab, Jeb Richardson, Joel Schneider, Anthony Hernandez, and Clare Cady at Wisconsin Hope Lab, April 2018

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104 Countries Block Women From Certain Jobs (and Other Legal Barriers)

By Josh Zumbrun |  | 3.29.2018

In more than half the world’s economies, policy makers have yet to take an obvious step to close the difference between men’s and women’s earnings: allowing women to work the same jobs as men. “I don’t understand why, in 2018, there’s 104 countries that have job restrictions on women,” said Sarah Iqbal, the program manager for the World Bank’s Women, Business and the Law project, which produces an annual report on the legal environment for women in 189 economies. In 18 economies husbands can legally prevent their wives from working at all. And in many nations, women are barred from taking jobs in many high-wage sectors, including manufacturing, contributing to very different economic outcomes for men and women.

Citing: Women, Business and the Law 2018 at The World Bank Group, April 2018

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NEW RESEARCH REPORTS

Paying for Parental Leave with Future Social Security Benefits

By Melissa M. Favreault and Richard W. Johnson | Urban Institute | April 2018

A recent proposal would allow new parents to trade future Social Security benefits for a few months of paid leave. Projections from the Dynamic Simulation of Income Model (DYNASIM) show that providing a progressive, 12-week leave benefit averaging about half pay without raising taxes would require raising the Social Security full retirement age for leave program participants about 25 weeks. This increase would permanently reduce participants’ monthly Social Security retirement benefits about 3 percent. The proposed program would raise Social Security’s annual costs, net of benefit offsets, about 1 percent, worsening the program’s financing shortfall.

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Low-Income Working Families: Rising Inequality Despite Economic Recovery

By Beth Jarosz and Mark Mather | The Working Poor Families Project | April 2018

While the U.S. economy has shown signs of recovery since the Great Recession, inequality among America’s 33 million working families has increased. The unemployment rate has fallen from a post-recession high of 9.6 percent in 2010 to 4.4 percent in 2017—the lowest level since 2000. However, gains at the lower end of the income spectrum have been slower than those at the top. The number of working families with income below 200 percent of the poverty level—termed low-income—fell slightly between 2015 and 2016 (from 10.3 million to 9.9 million). But despite recent improvements, there are more low-income working families today than there were at the onset of the recession in 2007 (9.5 million). Today, three in 10 working families in the United States may not have enough money to meet basic needs.

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The Changing Profile of Unmarried Parents

By Gretchen Livingston | Pew Research Center | April 2018

One-in-four parents living with a child in the United States today are unmarried. Driven by declines in marriage overall, as well as increases in births outside of marriage, this marks a dramatic change from a half-century ago, when fewer than one-in-ten parents living with their children were unmarried (7%). At the same time, the profile of unmarried parents has shifted markedly, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of Census Bureau data. Solo mothers – those who are raising at least one child with no spouse or partner in the home – no longer dominate the ranks of unmarried parents as they once did. In 1968, 88% of unmarried parents fell into this category. By 1997 that share had dropped to 68%, and in 2017 the share of unmarried parents who were solo mothers declined to 53%. These declines in solo mothers have been entirely offset by increases in cohabiting parents: Now 35% of all unmarried parents are living with a partner. Meanwhile, the share of unmarried parents who are solo fathers has held steady at 12%.

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The State of the Gender Pay Gap in 2018

PayScale | April 2018

In the last couple of years, workers and legislators have taken some big steps to push organizations to rectify the gender pay gap. For example, salary history bans have expanded across the U.S., with the goal of making sure organizations do not perpetuate the gender pay gap. The UK passed a law in 2017 which forces companies with more than 250 employees in the region to report on pay disparity between their male and female employees. In France, companies with more than 50 employees are now required to install software directly connected to their payroll systems to monitor unjustified pay gap; if a company fails to erase a pay gap detected by the software over three years, they could face a penalty. In the U.S., female employees from Google sued their previous employer for gender-based pay disparity. More recently, Starbucks claims it has achieved pay equity in the U.S.

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Sexual Harassment at Work in the Era of #MeToo

By Nikki Graf | Pew Research Center | April 2018

Recent allegations against prominent men in entertainment, politics, the media and other industries have sparked increased attention to the issue of sexual harassment and assault, in turn raising questions about the treatment of the accused and the accusers and what lies ahead for men and women in the workplace. A new Pew Research Center survey finds that, when it comes to sexual harassment in the workplace, more Americans think men getting away with it and female accusers not being believed are major problems than say the same about employers firing men before finding out all the facts or women making false accusations. And while these attitudes differ somewhat by gender, they vary most dramatically between Democrats and Republicans.

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