Intern Spotlight: Arwa Ali

IMG_6009.jpgName: Arwa Ali

Major/Year/School: B.A. in Economics, Class of ’18, Cornell University

Position: Research Intern

Organizations: Muslim Educational and Cultural Association (worship committee), Humanity First at Cornell (Fundraising Director), Ithaca Welcomes Refugees (Arabic interpreter trainee), Roosevelt Institute at Cornell (Policy Analyst)

What drew you to an internship at IWPR?

I have a variety of career interests, but they all revolve around social welfare and economic empowerment, which is how I landed on being an economics major. Though I applied to many internships, I felt that IWPR truly integrated all of my interests and would provide me with the most growth, particularly because women are so central to maintaining a positive community structure. Going onto the IWPR website always got me excited about all of the impactful research they put out, and I knew I wanted to contribute to that!

What does a typical day as a research intern at IWPR look like?

The one thing I can expect daily at IWPR is the 12:30pm group message on the “lunchtrain” chat.  Other than that, each day presents a new learning opportunity. I check in with my supervisor every couple of days to see if there are new projects I can take on, which is always exciting. As a research intern, you can expect to be asked to fact-check IWPR publications, which is ensures that a draft has accurate statistics and information.

The most enjoyable part for me has been doing research to collect information on a variety of topics, including sex trafficking in the United States and youth violence in Latin America and the Caribbean. These topics are hard to research, on an emotional level, but learning about the reality of these issues is necessary in order to combat them.

What’s the best part of interning at IWPR?

The best part for me has definitely been the people. Everyone I have encountered at IWPR is genuinely passionate about bettering the lives of others and ready to put in the necessary work to do so. The work environment is encouraging even though the state of our world isn’t so much at the moment. I got to attend the release of the Status of Black Women in the United States report (which I also got to help fact-check!) and hear Alicia Garza, of the National Domestic Workers Alliance and Black Lives Matter, speak in person; the amount of valuable information in that one report is amazing! Seeing how research can be used to put out hard facts and figures to catch the attention of policymakers is truly inspiring.

What are your future career interests?

My interests revolve around social welfare, but I still haven’t settled on a single career path. I am currently looking to pursue grad school in either public health or public policy after completing my undergraduate degree.

Any advice for future IWPR interns?

There are so many amazing people that work here and come from a wide range of career backgrounds. Take the time to get to know them (not just your supervisor) and learn about their specific areas of research and how they got to where they are.

Favorite lunch spot? I have only eaten out once since I’ve been here (to be fair, I was fasting for Ramadan for a good chunk of my time here). I ate at CAVA, and it is SO good.

Favorite D.C. museum? I don’t know if it’s my favorite (haven’t gone yet), but the museum currently at the top of my list is the National Museum of African American History and Culture. I’ve tried to get weekend tickets twice so far and failed (ticket sales are same-day starting 6:30am).

Favorite podcast or reading material on your commute? I’ve recently started listening to a podcast called Strangers, and it’s really eye-opening to listen to the stories of others.

What else do you like to do in your spare time I like to spend most of my spare time hanging out with friends, but if I’m not doing that, you can catch me going on a YouTube video spree, drinking tea (fave!), or sleeping.


Stay tuned throughout the summer as we highlight other IWPR interns and learn more about IWPR’s internship program here.

Intern Spotlight: Alex Mull-Dreyer

alex_final_square.jpgName: Alex Mull-Dreyer

Major/Year/School: Davidson College ‘18, major in Political Science and Gender & Sexuality Studies, Hispanic Studies Minor

Position: Research Intern

Past Internships: Summer Admissions Ambassador at Davidson College

What drew you to an internship at IWPR?

As a participant in my college’s Davidson in Washington summer program, I was looking to work at a progressive organization focused on research-based policy work. In classes I have taken, I used IWPR’s Status of Women in the States project as one of my core sources for political participation and mobilization data. After learning more about other work IWPR does, I knew that I would love to work in an office where passion turns into production and publication.

What research areas do you focus on?

At IWPR, I focus on gathering data on electoral voting patterns broken down by demographics like marital status, age group, and educational achievement. Additionally, I have prepared background research on international child care and paid family leave policies for a piece published by a staff researcher.

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

The best part of interning at IWPR has been the opportunity to gain so much knowledge about how the work of a nonprofit think tank truly affects policy change, from local municipalities all the way to the federal government. IWPR’s work is cited in articles from The Atlantic, Blavity, Slate, and more. In June, IWPR hosted “From Persistence to Power: Facts, Truth, and Equity for Women,” a conference with Wellesley and Spelman Colleges. At the event, I was able to hear amazing speakers like Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Alicia Garza, the co-founder of Black Lives Matter, and professional researchers and professors in the fields of gender studies, public policy, and economics. Through that day, I could see that what happens in the IWPR office on Connecticut Avenue affects people across the country.

Any advice for future IWPR interns?

Come in with a mindset that you may be asked to do things that you have a lot of background experience with as well as tasks where you have to learn the material and how to navigate the unfamiliar very quickly. At IWPR, it’s all hands on deck most of the time and staff are often eager for your help.

What are your future career interests?
I want to work on one of the 2018 midterm campaigns and eventually a campaign in 2020. I hope to be a community/political organizer, or a strategist of some sort. I am aiming for grad school or possibly law school.

Favorite lunch spot? I don’t want to sell my soul to corporations, but I love Cava and Chop’t so much. It’s so fast, easy, and absolutely delicious.

Favorite D.C. museum? The Newseum

Favorite podcast or reading material on your commute? Any of the Crooked Media podcasts (Pod Save the People, World, etc.)

What else do you like to do in your spare time?  I enjoy running on the Rock Creek trails or Mount Vernon along the Potomac. I can sit and talk politics pretty much all day and bring any conversation back to politics (for better or worse). Hanging out with any dog is always a plus.


Stay tuned throughout the summer as we highlight other IWPR interns and learn more about IWPR’s internship program here.

Intern Spotlight: Rebecca Huber

Rebecca Pic.jpgName: Rebecca Huber

Major/Year/School: Dual Master of Public Policy and MA in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies ’18, the Heller School for Social Policy and Management, Brandeis University

Position: Research Intern

Past Jobs: Before graduate school, I worked in direct service non-profits for women’s health and re-entry support for formerly incarcerated women. Currently, I am also a Co-Founder and Policy Director of AmIStillCovered.com.

What drew you to an internship at IWPR? I regularly rely on IWPR’s research when writing papers for coursework because of the intersectional lens and rigorous use of data. As a result, they were at the top of my list to fulfill my internship requirement for my grad program. Then, I visited IWPR earlier in the year for an informational interview. Meeting the staff and hearing about their mission firsthand cemented my love for the organization.

What research areas do you focus on? Most of my research surrounds women’s economic security, caretaking, and familial roles; at IWPR, this means I work on projects such as paid family and medical leave, paid sick days, and the wage/wealth gap.

What has been the best part of interning at IWPR so far? It combines all of my favorite parts of grad school, except I only work on topics I am really passionate about. I love leaving work every day knowing that I contribute to a better world for women. I am also grateful to be treated as a member of the team – I feel comfortable speaking up and offering suggestions in meetings, which is no small feat for this INFJ.

Any advice for future IWPR interns? Taking my assignments in graduate school seriously has prepared me well for this position. Familiarity with things like Census data, statistics, economics, and fact checking has expedited many of my projects at IWPR. Also, having previous experience in an office setting has benefited me – I think showing that you are “hungry” to learn about the field is a good rule of thumb for any internship. I try to volunteer for and attend events as much as possible both in and out of IWPR, which is easy here, since we are surrounded by so many great nonprofits.

What are your future career interests? To be a Researcher at IWPR!

Favorite lunch spot? This is difficult – we are surrounded by awesome food! I have a fond spot for Sweetgreen and Little Sesame.

Favorite D.C. museum? I am relatively new to D.C., so I can’t make an informed choice here!

Favorite podcast or reading material on your commute? So many, and I can’t keep up with them. I like Why Oh Why, Dear Sugar, Strangers, Embedded, Only Human, Death, Sex, and Money, Criminal, How Did This Get Made… and many others. I wish I read more, but it’s hard, since I spend so much of my day reading and writing. I just finished Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi, which was great.

What else do you like to do in your spare time? I love the Bachelor franchise. Since I work on topics that can be sobering, it’s great to de-stress with ridiculous, mindless fun. #teampeter


Stay tuned throughout the summer as we highlight other IWPR interns and learn more about IWPR’s internship program here.

Intern Spotlight: Lande Watson

blog.jpgName: Lande Watson

Major/Year/School: Political Communication, Class of ‘18, The George Washington University

Position: Communications Intern

Past Internships: The White House, Department of Justice, EMILY’s List

What drew you to an internship at IWPR?

When I was a freshman in college, I used some of IWPR’s research for a policy memo I wrote on the tipped minimum wage. I was fascinated and appalled to discover the disproportionate impact of a low tipped minimum wage on women and people of color. I thought it was incredibly important that there’s an organization devoted to women’s policy research and specifically dedicated to exploring and highlighting the intersections between different racial, socioeconomic, and gender identities. Having the opportunity to help communicate the findings of IWPR’s research to a broader audience and influence public policy ultimately convinced me to apply for a summer communications internship at the organization!

What does a typical day as a communications intern at IWPR look like?

I love the combination of routine and spontaneity that defines my day to day at IWPR. Every morning when I get to the office I compile morning clips while drinking a cup of coffee (or two). Usually around mid-morning we have a communications check-in meeting and then I move on to drafting social media posts. After that, it completely depends on the day. Sometimes I work on our google analytics or research how we can communicate our research to more people. Sometimes I update our press hit tracker or compile podcast shows that might highlight our work. And sometimes I take notes on a webinar or conference call. Or I work on a completely new project to support the communications team!

What’s the best part of interning at IWPR?

Interns are valued as members of the IWPR team and staff members are always open to hearing ideas and suggestions. There are so many opportunities to develop skills and discover new interests as long as you put yourself out there! Also people bring baked goods to all-staff meetings.

What are your future career interests?

Understanding the ways in which the justice system fails vulnerable populations, especially youth, has cemented my desire to pursue a career in law, with a specific interest in how the law affects vulnerable populations including children, women who are victims of sexual assault or discrimination, and those who don’t have access to quality legal counsel. Upon receiving my law degree I hope to work on legal policy within the California state justice system.

Any advice for future IWPR interns?

Talk to the other interns and staff members who are researching issues that interest you. Everyone around you is so knowledgeable and passionate about their research topics and you can learn a lot just by asking someone what they’re working on.

Favorite lunch spot? Nando’s Peri-Peri (It’s next door to the office and their chicken is amazing.)

Favorite D.C. museum? The National Portrait Gallery

Favorite podcast or reading material on your commute? I love to listen to Reply All, Startup or This American Life while walking to work!

What else do you like to do in your spare time? I like to swim and read in my spare time.


Stay tuned throughout the summer as we highlight other IWPR interns and learn more about IWPR’s internship program here.

IWPR’s Liz Noll on How Joining Together to Support Other Student Parents Helped Her in School

IWPR’s Liz Noll on How Joining Together to Support Other Student Parents Helped Her in School

Elizabeth Noll, Ph.D., Senior Research Scientist at IWPR, received both her B.A. and M.A. degrees in Sociology from Temple University and a Ph.D. in Social Welfare from the University of Pennsylvania. Before pursuing her BA, Dr. Noll attained her associate’s degree in Computer Science at Montgomery County Community College (MCCC), while raising her daughter Marisa. Earlier this month, Dr. Noll was inducted into MCCC Alumni Hall of Fame, in part because of her decades of work to support the campus’s child care center, as well as her important work and scholarship since she graduated.

IWPR Communications Associate, Nicolas Martinez, interviewed Dr. Noll about her experience as a student parent pursuing higher education and how on-campus child care contributed to her success in school.

  1. Could you tell us a bit about why you chose to pursue higher education?

I have always had a drive to learn about the world, especially about why things work as they do. However, my parents, who were very bright but who had only high school degrees, felt that as the only girl, the family would be better served by focusing on educating my three brothers. Remember, this was in the late 1950s/early 1960s when only elite women attended college. My mother was a stay-at-home parent. It was also a time when it was possible for people to actually work their way up the ladder. My father did that by working as a custodian in a knitting company and working his way to mechanical engineer and had several patents for machines he designed.

So, although I was an honor student in high school, and had a real desire to continue my education, I entered the workforce, employed with the Department of Public Welfare in Philadelphia as a caseworker— a civil service job that at the time did not require a college degree. In 1980, when the Reagan administration began limiting welfare benefits for the poor, I felt I could no longer serve my clients and left that position. Around the same time, I gave birth to my daughter and, without a partner, found myself responsible for another human being.

I moved in with a friend in the suburbs of Philadelphia. There, I enrolled in Montgomery County Community College (MCCC) mostly because they had a child care program of sorts, in the form of a “Parents Club,” which was a cooperative where parents took turns caring for children while other parents were in class. Not knowing what course of study to pursue, I enrolled in a general studies program. Looking back, this was an ideal program, since it introduced me to a variety of disciplines.  Among other areas, the program introduced me to careers in computer sciences. It laid a foundation that I was able to use in a variety of settings, including social research.

  1. What helped you balance parenthood with school?

Clearly, having a place on campus where I felt my 4-year-old daughter would be cared for while I was in class made my education possible. An unexpected benefit was having a space to share with other parents (mostly single mothers), who were challenging the stereotype and who supported each other when the going got tough, which it almost always does for women raising children on their own. I established long-term friendships there that I have maintained today. (Attached is a photo from this year’s Hall of Fame ceremony with two of those moms). Finally, MCCC, by virtue of having a child care center on campus in 1984, was a forward-thinking college as it continues to be today.

  1. You now work on IWPR’s Student Parent Success Initiative. What sort of research are you doing now on these issues?

I feel very fortunate to (finally) be working on projects that I connect with personally. In just the year that I’ve been with IWPR, I’ve worked on several analyses of national education survey data (IPEDS, NPSAS) to produce reports on the growth of the student parent population, along with the decline in on-campus child care; an national and regional profiles of student parents; a report on how community colleges can become family-friendly; an analysis of findings from a survey of campus child care leaders; a report on ways to link campus child care and early childhood education systems (forthcoming); and currently a cost-benefit analysis of higher education for single mothers (forthcoming). In March I attended a national conference of child care centers in Long Beach, CA, where I had the pleasure of hearing from campus child care providers about the issues they’re facing in serving student parents and their children.

  1. You’re studying the benefits to individuals and society of single mother education. As a former student parent, what is your perspective on the benefits that higher education can bring?

In addition to the very practical benefits of higher education, such as allowing students raising children alone to provide  housing, food, healthcare, and education for their children through greater earnings potential, single mothers particularly benefit by acquiring the necessary skills for leadership to contribute to areas that directly address the economic barriers they have encountered—to enlighten researchers and policymakers who have not directly experienced raising children alone on those policies and interventions that actually reflect their lives.

  1. What sort policies would help student parents pursuing higher education today?

The policy of requiring low-income single mothers, who are attempting to attain a college education to work 20 or more hours per week while in school in order to maintain their public benefits is not at all helpful for the women or for society.

I would also like to see social service database systems reconfigured to  include performance measures that reflect the actual qualitative experiences of low-income mothers.  My dissertation research revealed disconnects in the designs  of college and welfare office data systems that caused some student parents to be sanctioned erroneously and, in many cases, caused them to withdraw from college.

  1. If you could change one thing about your college experience, what would it be?

I would like to have been able to attend college (especially graduate school) on a full-time basis. Not only would it have taken less time to complete, but part-time college attendance is a qualitatively different experience than attending full-time where one can be truly immersed in a discipline. It is often challenging for non-traditional students, especially student parents, to fully  integrate what is being taught when they have to compartmentalize so much of their time. On the other hand, life with children while attending college is an education in itself.

Dr. Noll works on IWPR’s Student Parent Success Initiative where she conducts policy research related to the needs and experiences of student parents with a focus on increasing postsecondary education access and persistence for low-income mothers. Find IWPR’s research and resources on student parents at IWPR.org. 

Take a look at when Elizabeth Noll, Ph.D. was inducted into the Montgomery County Community College Alumni Hall of Fame on Friday, April 28, 2017.

Videos produced by Diane vanDyke and Matt Porter. Music composed by Michael Kelly. Narration by Michele Cuomo.


To view more of IWPR’s research, visit IWPR.org

Research News Roundup – June 2017

RESEARCH MAKING THE NEWS 

Black Women: Supporting Their Families—With Few Resources

By Gillian B. White|  | 6.12.17

“That heavy reliance on the work of black women helps explain why black women work more than women of other racial groups and are earning higher levels of education than they have historically. But despite their efforts to push for racial and gender equality throughout history, black women still get a raw deal economically, more than just about any other group, according to findings from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research and the National Domestic Workers Alliance..”

The Status of Black Women in the United States, by Asha DuMonthier, Chandra Childers, and Jessica Milli, Institute for Women’s Policy Research

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New study says older women in Hawaii more likely to live in poverty than older men

Anthony Pignataro || 6.14.17

“Many of the economic challenges that older women experience stem from inequities that women face earlier in life, including a persistent wage gap, the high cost of child care and a shortage of affordable housing,” said Dr. Colette Browne, the Richard S. and T. Rose Takasaki Endowed Professor in Social Policy at the School of Social Work and author of the report’s recommendations in a June 14 UH press release. “This builds up over the course of a lifetime and limits women’s ability to lay the foundation for economic security in retirement, especially for the many older single women living without a spouse.”

Citing: The Economic Security of Older Women and Men in Hawai’i, by Emma Williams-Baron, Julie Anderson, Cynthia Hess, and Jessica Milli, Institute for Women’s Policy Research

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Poverty really is the result of a state of mind — among rich people

By Joan Maya Mazelis |  | 6.20.17

“The poverty line is currently $24,600 per year for a family of four, and $16,240 for a family of two. The minimum wage pays just $7.25 per hour, or $15,080 for 40 hours a week, 52 weeks a year, if the worker never misses a day of work. In other words, the minimum wage only puts a family of one above the poverty line. There are only 12 counties in the entire United States where a worker making minimum wage can afford the rent on a one-bedroom apartment, and zero counties where a full-time minimum wage worker can pay the rent on a two-bedroom apartment.”

Citing: Out of Reach 2017: The High Cost of Housing, by Andrew Aurand, Dan Emmanuel, Diane Yentel, Ellen Errico, and Marjorie Pang, National Low Income Housing Coalition

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ILO: Reducing gender gaps would benefit women, society, and the economy

By Jessica Combes || 6.15.17

“In 2014, G20 leaders made a commitment to reduce the gap in participation rates between men and women by 25 per cent by the year 2025. The ILO report estimates that if this goal was [realized] at the global level, it has the potential to add $5.8 trillion dollars to the global economy, and this could also unlock large potential tax revenues.”

Citing: World Employment and Social Outlook: Trends for Women 2017, by Steven Tobin, Stefan Kühn, Richard Horne and Sheena Yoon, International Labour Organization

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Women Hold Two-Thirds of Nation’s Student Loan Debt

By Jaya Saxena | | 6.13.17

“Race also affects how student debt is paid. An analysis of expected family contributions to college tuition shows that white men benefit the most from family wealth, over $10,000, while black women can expect to get just $3,447 from their families to help pay for college. That means black women tend to take out the most loans. “The typical white family has 16 times the accrued wealth of the typical black family in the United States,” says the report. “It is unsurprising, therefore, that students and families of different races and ethnicities have very different levels of resources to contribute to the costs of postsecondary education.””

Citing: Deeper in Debt: Women and Student Loans, by Kevin Miller, Raina Nelson, and Sarah Dice, American Association of University Women

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States with more black people have less generous welfare benefits, study says

By Tracy Jan | | 6.6.17

“Today, for every 100 poor families in America, just 24 families receive cash assistance, compared with 64 in 1996. Only a quarter of TANF [(Temporary Assistance for Needy Families)] money now goes toward cash payments, down from 71 percent in 1997. Instead, states increased their TANF spending on promoting work activities, providing child care and preschool education, and offering other services not limited to low-income families.”

Citing: Why Does Cash Welfare Depend on Where You Live? How and Why State TANF Programs Vary, by Heather Hahn, Laudan Y. Aron, Cary Lou, Eleanor Pratt, Adaeze Okoli, Urban Institute

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RESEARCH MAKING THE NEWS 

Representation Matters: Women in the U.S. Congress

By Kelly Dittmar, Kira Sanbonmatsu, Susan J. Carroll, Debbie Walsh, and Catherine Wineinger | Center for American Women and Politics and Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers, The State University of New JerseyPolitical Parity | June 2017

A century after the first woman to win election to the U.S. Congress, Jeannette Rankin, took her seat in the House of Representatives, women remain underrepresented in the nation’s legislature with women constituting just 19.4% of members of Congress in 2017—below the worldwide average for national governing bodies. Moreover, the importance of having women serving in Congress is still not fully appreciated or understood. […]. What we find in our research—based on interviews with 83 of the 108 women who served as Senators, Representatives, and Delegates—is that the women on both sides of the aisle in the 114th Congress very much believe that their presence and their voices mattered, and they provided considerable evidence of achievements despite the overall environment of gridlock and party polarization in which they operated. Our interviews revealed that a shared work style, common experiences as women, and personal relationships forged in single-sex spaces within Congress enable women to work together across party lines. Women of color—who constituted a record number of members in the 114th Congress—emphasized the significance of their presence in Congress and the imperative of including the perspectives of women of color and minority communities more generally in the policymaking process.

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Intermarriage in the U.S. 50 Years after Loving v. Virginia

By Gretchen Livingston and Anna Brown | Pew Research Center | May 2017

In 2015, 17 percent of all U.S. newlyweds had a spouse of a different race or ethnicity, marking more than a fivefold increase since 1967, when 3% of newlyweds were intermarried, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data. In that year, the U.S. Supreme Court in the Loving v. Virginia case ruled that marriage across racial lines was legal throughout the country. Until this ruling, interracial marriages were forbidden in many states. More broadly, one-in-ten married people in 2015 – not just those who recently married – had a spouse of a different race or ethnicity. This translates into 11 million people who were intermarried.

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Paid Family and Medical Leave: An Issue Whose Time Has Come

By Aparna Mathur, Isabel Sawhill, Angela Rachidi, et al. | American Enterprise Institute and Brookings Institution | June 2017

Over the past year, the AEI-Brookings Paid Family Leave Working Group has developed recommendations for a federal paid leave policy. While the focus of our work and this report is on paid parental leave, we recognize the importance of families being able to take time for their own illness to look after relatives. We encourage more research and analysis of how a paid leave policy could be expanded to incorporate leave for these reasons. However, this report focuses only on paid parental leave at the time of the birth or adoption of a child. In the course of our work, we developed eight principles to guide policymaking in this area. They include preventing family hardship when a baby is born or adopted, maintaining long-term attachment to the labor force, supporting children’s healthy development, encouraging gender equity, minimizing costs to employers, ensuring access for the less advantaged, incorporating a shared contribution on the part of workers, and fully funding any new benefit. We also explored the design of a policy in more detail, looking at such elements as who should be eligible, the generosity of the benefit (wage replacement), job protection, and financing mechanisms.

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Our Aging, Caring Nation: Why a U.S. Paid Leave Plan Must Provide More Than Time to Care for New Children

By Julia Kortrey and Vicki Shabo| National Partnership for Women and Families | June 2017

This brief demonstrates that, although paid parental leave is critically important and must be included in any national paid leave plan, a policy that only covers parents caring for newborn or newly adopted children is insufficient. As the country’s population ages and people live and work longer, any national paid leave policy must reflect the well-established types of care included in the FMLA more than two decades ago. Only a comprehensive policy that recognizes the range of serious family and medical needs can meet the needs of America’s working people and the family members who rely on them.

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Building the Caring Economy: Workforce Investments to Expand Access to Affordable, High-Quality and Long-Term Care

By Nina Dastur, Indivar Dutta-Gupta, Laura Tatum, Peter Edelman, Kali Grant, and Casey Goldvale | Georgetown University Law, Center on Poverty and Inequality | May 2017

For many families, the struggle to get by is compounded by the demands and expense of providing care for young children, older family members, and/or family members with disabilities. Caregiving—with its attendant love and joy and often sacrifice—enhances our lives, but too often families in the United States find themselves on their own as they seek to meet these caregiving needs while balancing work and other obligations. This report proposes caregiving jobs investments to address two national needs: the pressing need for caregiving; and the equally pressing need for good jobs. With these aims, we offer proposals that promote the well-being of children, older adults, people with disabilities, and their families by creating and sustaining good jobs in the caregiving sector.

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Workforce of Today, Workforce of Tomorrow: The Business Case for High-Quality Childcare

By Katharine B. Stevens | The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Center for Education and Workforce | June 2017

American  business  depends  on  a  strong  workforce,  now  and  in  the  future,  to  compete  and succeed globally. But America is facing an unprecedented workforce crisis: a large and growing shortage of skilled workers. According  to  a  2016  survey  by  the  Aberdeen  Group,  four out of  five  employers believe  that today’s labor pool lacks skills and abilities essential to business success.

Recent  strategies  to  address  the  skills  gap  have  focused  largely  focused  on  addressing its immediate  consequences. While this  is  critical  for  business  success today,  we  also need strategies  that  will  build  the  human  capital  of  tomorrow — to revitalize  our workforce  for generations to come. High-quality childcare, which enables adults to work while laying a foundation for children’s success in school and  beyond,  is  an  under-recognized but promising strategy for addressing America’s growing workforce crisis. Done right, childcare provides a powerful two-generation approach to building the skilled workforce on which our country’s continued prosperity depends.

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Building Family-Friendly Campuses: Strategies to Promote College Success Among Student Parents

Building Family-Friendly Campuses: Strategies to Promote College Success Among Student Parents

By Melanie Kruvelis

This post is the third in a new series by Higher Education Today, Beyond the Margins: Meeting the Needs of Underserved Students.

For parents, receiving a college degree is one of the best investments they can make to improve the financial security, social mobility, and overall well-being of their family. Research has repeatedly shown, for example, that college graduates have higher lifetime earnings than their peers with just a high school diploma, and are more likely to report experiencing better health than those with lower educational attainment. Yet for the 4.8 million college students raising children, navigating higher education—a space primarily designed with young, non-parenting adults in mind—can be uniquely challenging.

Today, more than a quarter of all undergraduate college students are raising children, and about 44 percent are doing so without the support of a partner. The majority of single parents in college—80 percent—are women. Women of color are particularly likely to be single parents while in college: Nearly 40 percent of Black women and more than a quarter of American Indian/Alaska Native women in higher education are raising a child without the support of a partner (in comparison to 19 percent of Hispanic women and 14 percent of white women).

While the share of parents enrolled in college has been steadily growing—according to the most recent data, the proportion of students with dependent children has increased 30 percent from 2004-12—the share of parenting students who complete college remains low. The most recent data show that about half of all college students earn a degree or certificate within six years of enrolling, while only a third of student parents complete school, with the rate even lower for single parents (Figure 1).


Figure 1. Share of Students Who Attained a Degree or Certificate Within Six Years of Enrollment, by Parent and Marital Status, 2003-09


Though the reasons for leaving college without a degree vary, the heightened financial and time pressures faced by student parents can pose significant challenges to graduating. Compared with their non-parenting peers, student parents are nearly twice as likely to live in poverty, and are much less likely to have the resources to pay for college than their dependent peers. Compounding the financial pressure, student parents must also find affordable child care, which is often a significant expense. According to the Care Index, the average cost of center-based care in the United States—about $9,589 annually—is outpacing the average cost of in-state tuition at $9,410. Meanwhile, the share of campuses with childcare centers continues to decline, despite the growing need.

As colleges work to improve attainment rates and address economic, racial/ethnic and gender inequality on their campuses, institutions should take steps to better understand and support their diverse student population, including students with families of their own. Ensuring that student data can be disaggregated by parental and marital status, for instance, can help administrators better understand the needs and experiences of students who are balancing school and parenting. Institutional leaders can work to protect funding for student parent supports, such as Pell Grants and the federal Child Care Access Means Parents in School (CCAMPIS) program, which is the only source of federal funding available to facilitate low-income college students’ access to child care.

And institutions can employ strategies to make campuses more family-friendly, ranging from improving students’ access to childcare on- and off-campus, to stocking administrative offices with toys. A few examples of interventions that support parenting students’ college success include:

Connecting Student Parents with Financial Support and Education: The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s Life Impact Program provides participating low-income student parents with a $5,000 renewable scholarship. Life Impact Scholars are also connected with a life coach who helps students navigate on- and off-campus resources, such as child care, transportation supports, and career development programs.

At Norwalk Community College in Connecticut, parenting students can enroll in the Family Economic Security Program, which provides financial coaching, in addition to achievement coaching, peer support, and educational programs, to learners who have experienced interruptions in their college pursuit.

Targeting Academic Support to Student Parents’ Needs: Endicott College’s Keys to Degrees program provides tailored tutoring to participating student parents until they can maintain a 3.0 GPA. Keys to Degrees staff also coach students on how to talk to professors about balancing school with family responsibilities, help them secure internships related to their degree and ensure their graduation within four years.

At the University of California, San Diego, student parents can apply for priority enrollment so they can secure the courses they need to graduate while also creating a schedule that allows them to balance their school, family and work responsibilities more easily.

Making Child Care Accessible and Affordable: At the University of Michigan, low-income student parents may access a child care subsidy through the school’s Financial Aid Office, which they can use for licensed child care in the community.

Parenting students attending Lane Community College in Oregon are offered no-cost assistance finding child care through an on-campus child care resource and referral center.

Building Peer Community: At the University of Alabama, the Undergraduate and Graduate Parent Support programs developed online forums so that student parents can connect on issues related to balancing schoolwork with family responsibilities.

Student parents at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities can attend group lunches for parenting students, coordinated by the university’s Student Parent HELP Center.

Establishing a Family-Friendly Campus Environment: At Niagara County Community College in New York, the Mapping Opportunities for Moms program equips administrative and counseling offices with toys, signaling to students and college staff that families are welcome on campus, in addition to providing single mothers with a range of supports to help them attain a degree or certificate.

The Family Resource Center at Los Angeles Valley Community College has created a space on campus for the college’s parenting students, where they host play groups, as well as baby clothes exchanges, book exchanges, in addition to other two-generation services for parents and their children.

These are a few examples from a menu of options institutions may consider when developing family-friendly programming, and can be mixed, matched, and molded to fit the particular needs and capacity of institutions. While the approaches vary, what these supports have in common is the ability to help stabilize low-income student parents so they have both the time and economic security to focus on attaining a degree. By advocating for student parent supports, developing a greater understanding of student parents’ needs and implementing targeted interventions, colleges can build a more welcoming, productive environment that helps parents complete school and launch careers that provide economic security for their families.


To view more of IWPR’s research, visit IWPR.org