Post-hurricane recovery efforts must include women’s voices

By Heidi Hartmann and Geanine Wester

The people in cities and towns across Florida and the Caribbean (as well as those in Houston and the coastal areas) find themselves in the unenviable position that the people of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast found themselves in just 12 years ago: wondering how to rebuild and recover in the wake of a disastrous storm. Many are looking back to the recovery in post-Katrina New Orleans to learn lessons for what to do this time, which is encouraging, and the rescue effort has already benefitted from lessons learned from Katrina.

The distance of 12 years has produced a body of research on the post-Katrina Gulf Coast that can be instructive for those with the unfortunate task of rebuilding whole communities. One lesson that we hope will be heeded in post-Irma and post-Harvey recoveries: include women — particularly women whose voices might not be easily heard, such as poor women and women of color — in recovery planning.

Women are more vulnerable to climate disasters than men for a number of reasons. Evacuating or rebuilding often comes at a cost, yet in every state in the country, women are more likely to live in poverty than men. This is particularly true in Florida, where a recent report by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) in collaboration with the Florida Women’s Funding Alliance found that the state ranked in the bottom third of all states for the share of women living in poverty. The outlook is not promising: women in Florida are more likely to live in poverty than they did in 2004.

What’s worse is that women of color in Florida, as is true in other states, have much higher poverty rates than white women. The poverty rates among Florida’s black women (25.2 percent), Native American (21.4 percent), and Hispanic women (21.2 percent) are about twice as high as for white women (11.9 percent) in the state.

Women, particularly low-income women and women of color, have the greatest stake in effective and humane disaster recovery.

Paid Sick and Safe Days

Paid Sick and Safe Days

Survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking often need time off from work to seek medical care, obtain a protection order, and find shelter or safe housing to protect themselves and their children from harm. Once safe from immediate threats, survivors may need additional time off to work with victim advocates or participate in the justice system. Analysis of data from the National Violence Against Women Survey found that victims of intimate partner violence who were stalked lost an average of 10.1 days of paid work per year, those who were raped lost an average of 8.1 days per year, and those who experienced physical violence lost 7.2 days per year. Taking time off is often necessary to achieve safety, yet it can have a significant impact on survivors’ economic security. Paid sick and safe laws allow survivors to seek critical services when needed without having to jeopardize their ability to pay bills or their employment.

San Francisco was the first city to adopt a policy in 2007. Since then eight states and more than 30 counties and cities have enacted paid sick and safe leave policies. While individual statutes vary, these paid leave laws generally allow eligible employees to accrue time off that can be used to recover from an illness or take care of a sick family member without the loss of income or risk of losing their job. Many statutes include safe leave provisions for domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking victims to take paid time off to help ensure their safety and well-being. Approved activities may include seeking medical attention for injuries or counseling, obtaining victim and/or legal services, relocating oneself and one’s family, and participating in investigations or court proceedings related to abuse.

Protections for survivors vary by state with some including paid leave for domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking (Arizona, California, District of Columbia, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington) while others only cover domestic and sexual violence (Connecticut) or domestic violence (Massachusetts). Of counties and cities with paid sick and safe leave ordinances, San Diego, San Francisco, Emeryville, and Los Angeles, CA; Chicago/Cook County, IL; Montgomery County, MD; Philadelphia, PA; New Brunswick, NJ; Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN; and Seattle and Spokane, WA, have coverage for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking. While Berkeley and Oakland, CA; New Jersey City, Newark, Irvington, Passaic, East Orange, Paterson, Trenton, Montclair, Bloomfield, Elizabeth, Plainfield, and Morristown, NJ; and New York City, have paid sick leave policies they do not include safe time coverage for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking.

Coverage also often depends on the size of the employer and occupation, and accrual of paid sick hours often begins at the start of employment. When eligible, employers generally require a certain period of employment prior to accessing paid leave. For survivors protected by these laws, paid leave may mean the difference between risking their income and employement to be safe and maintaining economic independence so that they may be free from abuse in future.

For more information on these statutes and sick and safe leave campaigns, visit A Better Balance, Family Values@Work, or the National Partnership for Women and Families.

IWPR’s Heidi Hartmann and Gina Chirillo Outline Child Care Agenda in Dissent

IWPR’s Heidi Hartmann and Gina Chirillo Outline Child Care Agenda in Dissent

In the current issue of Dissent, IWPR’s Heidi Hartmann and Gina Chirillo review research from around the world on benefits of child care and outline what a child care agenda for the progressive movement would look like.

Child care has been described by the late economist Barbara Bergmann as a merit good; it does more for society than it costs. Parents, many of whom have low incomes especially when their children are young, simply don’t have the funds to invest the optimal amount in their own children. And parents are not the only ones, or even the main ones, to benefit from their investment; well-educated children benefit all of society. As a society we underinvest in children, and only the public sector can fill the gap.

Read more at Dissentmagazine.org.

Back to School? How Experiencing Violence Affects Educational Attainment

Back to School? How Experiencing Violence Affects Educational Attainment

By Lande Watson

As college students across the country head back to campus for the fall semester, some of their peers may not be among them. A new IWPR fact sheet on the economic cost of intimate partner violence (IPV), sexual assault, and stalking highlights the effect of such violence on the educational attainment of survivors. College-aged women are particularly vulnerable—women ages 18 to 24 experience the highest rates of rape and sexual assault.

Students who experience IPV and sexual violence often suffer significant physical and psychological trauma, and many do not return to college as a result. Moreover, the likelihood of running into their abuser or rapist on campus, whether in class or even in their residence, can make campus an unsafe and hostile environment for survivors, particularly if colleges do not provide ample support and accommodations.

The economic effects of violence experienced by college students can also be far-reaching. Survivors may face out-of-pocket medical costs, diminished credit, and job instability. Experiencing sexual assault also makes it less likely for survivors to finish college, which may lead to a lifetime of economic disadvantage.

IWPR has reviewed key studies that illustrate how physical and psychological trauma from violence as efforts to economically sabotage victim impedes educational attainment. Survivors complete fewer years of education than students who did not experience violence, are more likely to skip school, and often drop classes or move residence to avoid their assailant. A few findings from these studies include:

  • One survey of single mothers, a growing population of college students, found that women who experienced IPV during adolescence obtained, on average, 0.5 fewer years of education than those who did not experience violence.
  • Data from the 2013 Youth Risk Behavior Survey showed that students who experienced dating and sexual violence were more likely to skip school due to safety concerns than their peers.
  • One analysis of seven waves of data collected between 1976 and 1987 from the National Youth Survey (NYS) of adolescents 11–17 years old showed that having experienced victimization as an adolescent was associated with a decline in effort put into schoolwork and poorer academic performance, even when controlling for income and other factors. While this analysis focuses on adolescents, poor academic performance in middle school and high school may affect survivors’ ability to find academic success in higher education.
  • The Campus Sexual Assault Study, a web-based survey from over 6,800 undergraduate students on the prevalence and nature of sexual assault on college campuses, found that in response to sexual violence, victims often avoided or tried to avoid the assailant, dropped a class, moved their residence, or sought counseling.

Further, out-of-pocket health costs associated with sexual assault or rape can be burdensome for survivors, potentially straining their ability to afford other expenses, such as college tuition. For instance, one study found the average medical cost of rape within the first 30 days following treatment to be $6,737—$948 of which was paid by the victim. In addition to these short-term costs, the lifetime financial cost of rape is significant for survivors, estimated by one study to be $122,461, on average, per victim.

As a new wave of schools fall under federal Title IX investigation for their handling of sexual assault and sexual harassment, university administrators should assess how they can support survivors on campus as they work to continue and complete their education. There are many ways to support survivors on campus: schools can help survivors by connecting them to supportive services—such as financial aid, child care, mental health support, and transportation assistance—that may assist victims in seeking justice, completing their education, and achieving greater economic mobility. Teachers, faculty, college administrators, and other educational personnel should receive training on domestic violence and its economic impact on students’ lives. The Office on Civil Rights at the Department of Education has also recommended that all schools proactively consider remedies for responding to sexual harassment and domestic or dating violence, such as providing counseling services, medical services, and arranging for the complainant to retake a course without penalty.

Colleges can take these steps so that survivors—who otherwise might not return to class this month because they are dealing with the effects of intimate partner violence, sexual assault, and stalking—can come back to school and complete their education.

Happy Labor Day from IWPR!

Happy Labor Day from IWPR!

jpeg.jpg

Dear IWPR Supporters and Colleagues,

Today we celebrate Labor Day. As we enjoy the last days of summer, I would like to take a moment to remember the day’s true meaning—a time to honor the contributions workers have made to strengthen the well-being of our country, the struggle for improved pay and working conditions, and the fight that our value be recognized.

As Chair of the Board for the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR), I’m proud to be a part of this organization and the important role we play in this on-going effort to improve working conditions and economic security for working families. Women play an essential role in the continued strength and prosperity of this country.

Early this summer, IWPR and the National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA) released The Status of Black Women in the United States. The report provides critical data to identify the barriers that Black women face in the workplace and to suggest investments, programs, and public policies that can lead to positive changes for Black women and their families. At the June event, “From Persistence to Power: Facts, Truth, & Equality for Women,” IWPR collaborated with Spelman College and the Wellesley Centers for Women to discuss many of the key-findings for the report. You can watch the entire event online. To read the key-findings and for more in-depth information, you can find the full report and the Executive Summary on IWPR’s website.

IWPR’s work to promote equal pay for women is important to ending poverty and improving income security for families. IWPR researchers estimate that it will take until 2059 for women to finally reach equal pay (2056 for White women, 2124 for Black women, and 2248 for Hispanic women). Black women participate in the labor force at higher rates than White, Hispanic, Asian, and Native American women, with 62.2 percent of Black women in the workforce. With the support of unions, Black women earn 32 percent more than their nonunionized counterparts.

Closing the gender wage gap would increase women’s earnings and add billions of dollars in wage and salary income to each state’s economy and $512.6 billion to the national economy. In The Economic Impact of Equal Pay by State, IWPR takes an in-depth look at the best and worst states for women workers. In the briefing paper, The Impact of Equal Pay on Poverty and the Economy, the increasingly important impact of pay equality is examined. Approximately 25.8 million children in the United States would benefit from the increased earnings of their mothers with equal pay.

The value women workers bring to the economy and the positive changes they make to our country inspire IWPR to continue to produce the reliable research that informs and promotes effective policy. At this time in our country, facts have come under attack in many ways and are challenged like never before. The news media rely on IWPR to provide them with the information necessary to tell the stories and struggles of women across the country. With your support, we can continue to fight back against misinformation and allow the media, policymakers, activists, and supporters like you to see the research for themselves.

I encourage you to take a moment today to contemplate the past, present, and future of working women in this country and how to best support their continuing achievements and struggles. As the Chair of the Board of IWPR, I ask for your support. Please make a donation to the Institute today in honor of a hard-working woman in your life.

 

 

Lorretta Johnson, Chair, IWPR Board of Directors
Secretary-Treasurer, American Federation of Teachers, AFL-CIO

 

 

Charlottesville: An Imperative to Intensify Action toward Equity

Charlottesville: An Imperative to Intensify Action toward Equity

The recent “Unite the Right” events in Charlottesville saw the mobilization of violent individuals by organizations working to exploit hate and fear in an effort to advance white supremacy.  The emboldened white nationalist movement in the United States requires redoubled efforts to address racism in America in all its forms, from structural racism and inequitable public policies, to outright terror.

As an organization focused on how intersections of gender, race, and ethnicity affect opportunity, safety, and prosperity, we feel it is an important time to examine what we know about the status of women of color in our society, and to consider how policy can work toward equity and move away from policies that reinforce racism.

The Status of Black Women in the United States and the Status of Women in the South reports present social and economic indicators, illustrating how women, White women, and women of color are doing in comparison with White men. These reports also provide the indicators and additional data on a state-by-state basis and can help inform action toward humane policies motivated by principles of equity.

Findings like these can help to focus action in unsettling times:

  • Women who work full-time, year-round earn less than similarly-employed men. In the South, the site of recent violent racist incidents, women earn 70% of what White men earn, 4 percentage points lower than in non-southern states.
  • The poverty rate among women in the South l (16.4 percent) is nearly 20 percent higher than in all other states outside the South (13.7 percent). Among women from the largest racial and ethnic groups in the South, Black women have the highest poverty rate at 25.5 percent, followed by Hispanic (23.4 percent) and Native American women (20.9 percent). For perspective, the poverty rate among men in the South is 12.2%.
  • Nationally, Black women are two and a half times more likely to be murdered by men than are White women. South Carolina has the highest murder rate in the country at 2.32 per 100,000 women—nearly double the national rate.
  • Young Black women aged 18-19 were four times more likely to be imprisoned than young White women. Girls and women of color are the fastest growing populations in American prisons.
  • In the South, median annual earnings for U.S.-born women are 28 percent higher than earnings for immigrant women.

Despite challenges, Black women and other women of color have consistently been at the front of the social justice movements, pushing for social and policy changes that benefit society as a whole.

In recent months, false narratives have succeeded in altering public debate and policy leaving evidence-based rigor behind. Grounded in evidence and democratic values, voices that seek openness, tolerance, and equity must be raised and strengthened.

Intern Spotlight: Jiani Yang

image_uploaded_from_ios_1024.jpgName: Jiani Yang

Major/Year/School: MA in Higher Education Administration, Graduate School of Education and Human Development, George Washington University.

Position: Research Intern, Student Parent for Success Initiative

Past Internship: Summer Intern at The Columbian College of Arts and Science Undergraduate Academic Advising Office

What drew you to an internship at IWPR?

Last spring, my history of higher education class had a series of discussions about the history of women in higher education. It was such an eye-opening journey. After speaking with some experts in the field and recognizing many issues still affecting girls and women around the world, I decided to learn more about how to empower girls and women through education. IWPR positively influences women’s status through conducting research based on strong data and analysis, which resonates with my personal and career goals.

What research areas do you focus on?

Currently my research focuses on IWPR’s Student Parent Success Initiative. This program addresses the needs of low-income student parents, especially single mothers, in accessing and completing higher education degrees through research on topics like access to child care.

What has been the best part of interning at IWPR so far?

I really enjoyed the opportunity to meet so many fun, driven, and brilliant people at IWPR. Everyone I talk with is helping me to grow both as an intern and a person. Most common tasks for research intern are fact-checking IWPR publications and collecting information. Honestly, I didn’t expect to like them. But these two activities have allowed me to learn new knowledge and develop a more mature and sophisticated research approach.

Any advice for future IWPR interns?

I have two pieces of advice for future IWPR interns. First, believe in yourself. No matter how well you think you’ve prepared for this internship, there are going to be some curve balls your work throws at you. However, it is crucial to remember you’re here to learn and you will be successful. Second, don’t be afraid to ask “stupid” questions. It is absolutely easier said than done. I had tremendous support from my fellow interns when I first came to IWPR. If you feel overwhelmed by new work, don’t feel embarrassed to ask for help.

What are your future career interests?

For the foreseeable future, I will start my Ed.M. in Economics and Education at Teachers College, Columbia University in fall 2018. I expect to incorporate new knowledge into my research on women and girls’ education.

Favorite lunch spot? My favorite lunch spot is OKI Bowl DC & Sake. I love their chashu and beef rice bowls.

Favorite D.C. museum? I can’t pick a favorite, since I haven’t visited many museums in Washington, D.C. But art museums are my favorite type of museum. I had a great time during my most recent trip to the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden. I’m no art expert, but I find the aesthetics of traditional and modern art appealing and soothing.

Favorite podcast or reading material on your commute? I am fairly new to podcasts, but so far favorite one is Planet Money. Planet Money is educational, informative, and entertaining. I chose Planet Money in an attempt to learn some economics knowledge, but its light, comedic, and thought-provoking storytelling made me stay.

What else do you like to do in your spare time? I love to have brunch with friends and chat for hours. Also, I enjoy a good cup of coffee, and a quiet place to read.


Learn more about IWPR’s internship program here.