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.

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.

5 Stats to Know on Black Women’s Equal Pay Day

5 Stats to Know on Black Women’s Equal Pay Day

Monday, July 31, is Black Women’s Equal Pay Day, marking how far into 2017 Black women must work to earn what White men earned in the previous year. A new report, The Status of Black Women in the United States, by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) in collaboration with the National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA) takes a comprehensive look at Black women’s status across six topic areas related to their political, health, and economic well-being.

The average Black woman working full-time earns only 63 cents for every dollar earned by a White man. This gap is wider than for women overall, who earn 80 cents for every dollar earned by a man. There isn’t one single reason for the gender wage gap: discrimination, the undervaluation of women’s work, occupational segregation, and the lack of work–family supports all contribute.

Here are 5 other stats to know on #BlackWomensEqualPay Day:

  1. At the current rate of progress, Black women will not see equal pay with White men until 2124.

If change continues at the same slow pace as it has for the past fifty years, it will take 42 years—or until 2059—for the median annual earnings of all women to finally reach pay parity with all men. Black women, however, would have to wait an extra 65 years on top of that, until 2124 to achieve equal pay with White men (Hispanic women will have to wait over two centuries, until 2248.)iwpr_bwepd (6)

  1. Black women have among the highest labor force participation rates for 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,   Black women are the only group of women, among the large racial/ethnic groups included in the study, with a higher labor force participation rate than their male counterparts Almost four out of five (77.7 percent) Black mothers with young children participate in the workforce, higher than any other group of mothers.

  1. More than 8 in 10 Black mothers (80.6 percent) are breadwinners.

Black families depend on Black women’s earnings. Many Black women are raising families on their own, and more than half (50.6 percent) of Black mothers in married couples with young children are breadwinners—the largest share among women of any of the largest racial and ethnic groups.

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  1. Between 2004 and 2014, Black women saw substantial declines in real wages, greater than for women from most other large racial/ethnic groups.

Black women’s real median annual earnings for full-time, year-round work declined by 5.0 percent between 2004 and 2014—more than three times as much as women’s earnings overall.

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  1. Black women in unions earn 32 percent more than their nonunionized counterparts.

Black women workers working full time and represented by labor unions earn an average of $192.10, or 32.2 percent, more per week than Black women who are not in unions. Black women’s union wage advantage is greater than the union advantage among all women (31.3 percent). In the South, Black women in unions experience an even greater advantage than in the rest of the country, earning 34.5 percent more than their non-union counterparts.4

Policy Recommendations

A number of policy interventions can help address low and declining wages Black women. First, raising the minimum wage and indexing it to inflation will increase the earnings and economic security of Black women working in low wage jobs. Raising the minimum wage could improve the earnings of breadwinner mothers, reduce poverty, and reduce gender and racial earnings inequality.

Second, the U.S. government should fully enforce Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which made discrimination in hiring, pay, and promotions illegal, to improve Black women’s access to well-paid jobs.

Third, improving Black women’s access to good middle-skill occupations and providing equitable access to earn-while-you-learn apprenticeship opportunities will improve both Black women’s economic security and meet employers’ needs for a skilled workforce.

Stay Informed

Follow  the discussion on social media with #BlackWomensEqualPay or visit blackwomensequalpayday.org. You can also follow IWPR on Instagram and Twitter  at @IWPResearch, or follow us on Facebook for regular updates on our research.  You can also sign up for our bi-weekly e-alerts to stay up to date on the latest releases.