Examining the Intersections Between Gender, Urbanization, and Democratic Governance

By Haley Nolan and Lindsey Reichlin

With two-thirds of the world’s population predicted to live in urban areas by the year 2050, the global landscape is changing rapidly. Reviewing existing literature and data across a range of fields, authors Lindsey Reichlin, IWPR Research Associate and Program Manager, and Elyse Shaw, IWPR Research Associate, examined the experiences of women in urban settings in Gender, Urbanization, and Democratic Governance, a white paper commissioned by the National Democratic Institute (NDI) and released in June 2015. The paper, which incorporates feedback from an expert roundtable of former policymakers, development practitioners, academics, and researchers, explores the gendered experiences of city inhabitants and discusses how increasing women’s voice and agency in urban governance, policymaking, and planning can help distribute the benefits of urban living more equitably.

IWPR’s research found that urbanization, while associated with increased access to social, economic, and political opportunities, is also characterized by persistent gender norms and lacking social infrastructure to support women’s needs. Urban women face distinct challenges from those faced by their male counterparts, including unequal access to education, vulnerability to gender-based violence, deficient labor and legal protections, constrained urban mobility, and a division of labor which holds women responsible for the majority of unpaid domestic work and family care. These challenges contribute to the persistent exclusion of women from urban decision-making processes and political inner circles.

The white paper emphasizes the importance of increasing women’s representation in urban decision making, highlighting the utility of mechanisms such as labor unions,
grassroots women’s movements, digital technologies and social media, voter engagement, and gender quotas for bringing women’s issues and women’s voices into the spotlight. The paper also highlights the need for improved and expanded sex-disaggregated data that can better inform city development.

Job Training and Support Services In-The-News: Week of January 11, 2016

Weekly Roundup of the news on women and supportive services in job training programs.

By Rachel Linn

Job training can provide an entry into family-sustaining jobs and careers. Many women in job training programs, however, face obstacles to success. Wraparound services—such as child care assistance, access to public benefits, and transportation or housing assistance—can help adults, particularly those with caregiving responsibilities, to complete programs that will ultimately improve their economic standing. 

January 15, 2016

Industry Week: Lifting Families Out of Poverty and Into Advanced Manufacturing Careers (By Dr. Anne M. Kress, President, Monroe Community College, Rochester, N.Y.)

ACCESS: Whether it’s owning a car or paying bus fares, transportation is a significant cost to families that are already struggling to make ends meet. Similarly, the cost of child care may prevent a single parent from pursuing a college education. And individuals who are holding down jobs while going to college might not have enough time to get from work to class.

To remove these barriers, MCC offers training programs in city neighborhoods. We have partnered with community groups such as the Ibero-American Action League, a dual-language human services agency that serves Hispanic residents, to offer educational opportunities right in the communities that would benefit from them most.

To help with child care, we partner with community providers to provide services and have secured state grants to offset costs for students.

January 9, 2016

The Auburn Citizen (Auburn, NY): Palmer: How Employment Pathways helps Cayuga County-area people in poverty find jobs

Employment Pathways is a new program administered by Cayuga/Seneca Community Action Agency and located at Cayuga Community College Cayuga Works Career Center.

The agency has partnered with the Cayuga County Department of Social Services, Cayuga Works Career Center, Cayuga Community College, Cayuga-Onondaga BOCES and several local employers, including TRW Automotive, to address barriers to obtaining and/or retaining employment within our community. Some of the barriers include education, training and/or soft skills deficits, unreliable or no transportation, child care and housing issues, and the shortage of living wage jobs. This collaborative effort engages public, private and nonprofit sectors to connect people in poverty with the community resources necessary to travel the pathway to economic stability.

Spotlight: Student Parents in the News

By Rachel Linn


Student parents have been gaining visibility in recent months among the media, funders,
and policymakers. In August, presidential candidate Hillary Clinton released her higher
education proposal, which highlighted the importance of child care for student parent success, and included a significant increase in funding for the Child Care Means Parents in School (CCAMPIS) program. IWPR’s fact sheets—“4.8 Million College Students are Raising Children” and “Campus Child Care Declining Even As Growing Numbers of Parents Attend College” —have been cited in coverage of the proposal. News outlets used IWPR research and interviewed experts to draw attention to the “invisible population” of college students with children, particularly the need for accessible and affordable childcare options. Social media was also abuzz with the topic of student parents, as IWPR partnered with the Young Invincibles to host a tweet chat about the barriers these students face and policy solutions that encourage postsecondary success as part of Young Invincibles’ popular #MillennialMon series.

In addition to increased visibility in the media, two new major campaigns have recently been launched by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and the Lumina Foundation, both with a strong emphasis on supporting low-income parents in college. With a total investment of $11.6 million, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation launched two new pilot programs—Supporting Transitions to Employment for Parents (STEPS) and Mobility and Opportunity for Valuable Employment by Upskilling Parents (MOVE UP)—to help families across the United States increase workforce mobility and achieve economic security.

The Lumina Foundation’s Today’s Student campaign, which features IWPR’s research on student parents, targets credential attainment among all students, including students that may be older, enrolled in alternative educational options, or have limited time due to employment or dependent children. IWPR Vice President and Executive Director Barbara Gault spoke on a panel at the release event for the Foundation’s campaign, held in the U.S. Senate on September 17.

Press highlights on student parents:

-IWPR Vice President and Executive Director Barbara Gault authored an op-ed published by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education, about the importance of child care to student parents as part of her Public Voices Fellowship with The OpEd Project (September 18, 2015).

-Danielle Paquette from The Washington Post cited IWPR’s research on student parents and interviewed Research Associate Lindsey Reichlin in “This simple addition to college campuses could cut costs for a quarter of undergrads” (August 10, 2015).

-Politico cited IWPR Status of Women in the States research on proportion of family income spent on child care in “Clinton Wants to Expand Grants, Services for Parents Who Attend College” (August 14, 2015).

-The Atlantic cited and linked to IWPR reports and research on student parents in “Single Moms and Welfare Woes: A Higher-Education Dilemma” (August 18, 2015).

-National Journal cited IWPR research on student parents and quotes Research Associate Lindsey Reichlin in “Why Hillary Clinton Faces Steep Hurdles in Helping Student Parents” (August 20, 2015).

– Today cited IWPR research on the number of college campuses with child care in “Should Babies be in the Classroom? One Mom’s Fight to Bring Her Daughter to Class” (September 24, 2015).

Job Training and Support Services In-The-News: Week of January 4, 2016

Weekly Roundup of the news on women and supportive services in job training programs.

By Rachel Linn

Job training can provide an entry into family-sustaining jobs and careers. Many women in job training programs, however, face obstacles to success. Wraparound services—such as child care assistance, access to public benefits, and transportation or housing assistance—can help adults, particularly those with caregiving responsibilities, to complete programs that will ultimately improve their economic standing. 

January 5, 2016

The Desert Sun: Coachella Valley Adult School expands services

The adult school leveraged its limited state and federal funding by partnering with County Welfare and Workforce Development programs, dozens of nonprofit organizations and several colleges/ universities and career training programs to help advance the lives of its students. In November, the California Department of Education awarded the Coachella Valley Adult School $457,453 through its Adult Education Block Grant Program to expand and enhance its adult education services. These additional funds are being used to expand and enhance adult education in the east valley including the elimination of educational barriers for students who were unable to attend school because of cost, transportation, or child-care responsibilities. These funds will also be used to establish and enhance career pathways for students seeking employment and opportunities for an increase in wages.

January 4, 2016

Logan Banner (West Virginia): Until FERC approval, 1,000s of pipeline jobs just potential

Workforce development, Gov. Tomblin said, has been a top priority. The Governor hosted the state’s first Workforce Summit in 2015 and, in October, announced an additional $7.6 million in federal funding from the U.S. Department of Labor to help coal miners affected by layoffs and mine closures take advantage of job training and career. The grant funding provides tuition assistance – up to $5,000 – for classroom and online skills training, supports 25 on-the-job training positions and provides meal, travel and child care allowances for both miners and their families.

January 4, 2016

Bryan County News: Workforce legislation may increase Georgia’s economic opportunity (by Melissa Johnson, a policy analyst for the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute)

Expand access to support services. The federal legislation explicitly allows local workforce-development boards to provide support services and need-based payments to help people to go about their lives while they receive training. Help with child care, transportation and housing is crucial to a person’s ability to participate in training.

Georgia can combine state and federal resources to provide added support services so more people can participate in training. The state can also provide technical assistance to communities to combine various federal funding sources for support services and optimizing their delivery. This could include providing child care at certain hours or particular forms of transportation assistance.

January 3, 2016

Lansing State Journal: McDonald: Michigan’s workforce, future depend on degrees

The faculty and staff of Michigan’s higher education institutions welcome the research, goals, and recommendations outlined in the report: “Reaching for Opportunity: An Action Plan to Increase Michigan’s Postsecondary Credential Attainment.”

The report provides specific recommendations to improve the access and success of adult and other non-traditional students entering higher education institutions.

Career and personal counseling are also critical to these students, as are other support services such as: child care, flexible class schedules, and faculty mentoring in addition to instruction. Many of today’s students have work and family responsibilities and very modest incomes.

December 31, 2015

Duluth News Tribune: Economic expert’s view: Duluth needs solution to worker shortage

Record low unemployment rates mask one of the major opportunities in local workforce development. For many underrepresented populations, unemployment rates are still very high. Often, these populations experience barriers to employment that prevent them from entering the workforce. These barriers include but are not limited to a lack of education, a lack of training, access to transportation, criminal backgrounds and a lack of access to child care. In order to develop our local workforce we must begin to address some of the most prevalent barriers to employment so individuals who want to enter the workforce can do so.

December 23, 2015

Womens eNews: ‘Pre-Apprentice’ Programs Can Break Open Jobs for Women (by Katie Spiker, a federal policy analyst for National Skills Coalition. She is a graduate of Georgetown University Law Center and a 2015 Ford Public Voices Fellow.)

As an advocate in this area I have also seen with my own eyes how these programs help participants gain skills and confidence and move them along to jobs that transform their own lives and those of their families.

These programs offer training and support services that can put women on the right track to apprenticeship. It could mean basic computer science exposure for someone who may not have had the course in school, and needs it for an IT certificate. It could also mean support figuring out the best way to manage child care for a working mother, or physical fitness training to ensure the woman standing at a computerized numerical control, or CNC machine, has the endurance to do so.

December 18, 2015

San Francisco Chronicle: JobTrain puts low-income people on path to sustainable employment

JobTrain, a 50-year-old nonprofit that grew out of the Civil Rights movement, still focuses on economic equality through a combination of job training, academics and life skills to help disadvantaged people be self-sufficient.

Support takes a lot of forms. Case managers meet individually with each student. Child care, a wellness facility and access to assistance with food and transportation are all offered on site.

This year, JobTrain created a for-profit company to provide on-the-job training for its students. Wise SV (Workforce Integration Social Enterprise), a joint venture with social enterprise CalSo, operates Rendezvous Cafe & Catering in Redwood Shores. It may add manufacturing and staffing components in the future.

Pioneering Research on the Costs and Benefits of Paid Family Leave

By Jeff Hayes, Ph.D.

Since its founding, IWPR has studied the costs and benefits of American workers’ access to leave for childbirth, personal health needs, or family caregiving. IWPR’s inaugural publication, Unnecessary Losses: Costs to Americans of the Lack of Family and Medical Leave  showed that by not recognizing the need for work-life balance, established policies not only failed to support workers and their families, but were costly to taxpayers. The study’s findings informed the passage of job-protected, unpaid leave in the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993.

Expanding beyond unpaid leave, IWPR studied the possibility of providing paid family leave by enhancing Temporary Disability Insurance (TDI) programs operating in California, Hawaii, New Jersey, New York, and Rhode Island in a fact sheet describing the program and in a paper presented at the American Economic Association in 1995. Since that time, three states—California, New Jersey, and Rhode Island— have implemented paid family leave expansions.


More recently, IWPR worked in conjunction with the Labor Resource Center (LRC) at the University of Massachusetts–Boston to develop a flexible econometric model for estimating the costs and benefits of paid family and medical leave insurance proposals. The original IWPR/LRC Family and Medical Leave Cost Simulation Model used data from the U.S. Department of Labor’s (DOL) 2000 FMLA survey and the March Current Population Survey (CPS), and incorporates the unique features of various proposed programs, from waiting periods to eligibility criteria. This IWPR/LRC model has been used to estimate the costs and benefits of proposed paid family leave legislation in several states: Massachusetts, New Mexico, Maine, Maryland, Illinois, Minnesota, and Washington.

This year, the model was used by IWPR to study the costs and benefits of paid leave in the District of Columbia in collaboration with D.C.’s Department of Employment Services. The analysis was part of a recent family of studies funded by the Women’s Bureau at the U.S. DOL to inform the development or implementation of paid family and medical leave programs at the state level. The research continues to show that providing leave benefits under alternative policy designs could provide substantial benefits at relatively low cost. Early results were used by members of the D.C. City Council for a proposal to provide up to 16 weeks of partially paid leave for employees of private employers in the District of Columbia and allow D.C. residents working for the federal government or employers outside of the District to opt in. The legislation, if it passes, could be the most generous paid leave policy in the country.

Beginning in 2014, IWPR and IMPAQ International have been working under contract with the Department of Labor’s Office of the Assistant Secretary for Policy, Chief Evaluation Office to update the IWPR/LRC simulation model to base leave-taking behaviors on the 2012 FMLA survey and the American Community Survey (ACS) for local labor force estimates. The larger sample size in the ACS provides greater geographic detail than what is available in the CPS for studying family and medical leave proposals in states, counties, or cities. Furthermore, the additional data available in the ACS on place of work allows for greater focus on the analysis of costs and benefits to employers in local areas considering policy changes.

Moving forward, IWPR, under federal and state research contracts, will be using the updated Family and Medical Leave Cost Simulation Model to study leave policies in Minnesota, New Hampshire, Montgomery County, MD, and the expansion of Rhode Island’s Temporary Caregiver plan.

President’s Message: Fall 2015

By Heidi Hartmann

It has been a great year for IWPR. Among many report releases, strong press coverage, and great exposure in the popular media, I want to particularly share with you my excitement at the new era that has begun in the struggle to attain paid parental leave in the United States. From President Obama’s 2015 State of the Union speech to the 2016 presidential candidates from both parties, the call for paid parental leave has come to the fore. While one candidate attacked the need for any legislation guaranteeing such policies (claiming that employers that find it important to their business will do it on their own), many candidates have supported the call for paid parental leave policy at the federal level, although most have not yet issued detailed plans. Never before has paid family leave been addressed so prominently in these venues.

I am very proud to say that IWPR’s dogged work since the mid-1990s to present paid family leave as a realistic option for the United States is finally paying off. As noted in Jeff Hayes’ opening article in this newsletter, IWPR first highlighted the use of state Temporary Disability Insurance (TDI) programs—which already covered a woman’s pregnancy, delivery, and recovery—as vehicles for paid family care leave in a paper presented in 1995 at the annual meetings of the American Economic Association. We followed that up with a fact sheet in 1996 describing the five existing state TDI programs. California was in fact the first of these states to adopt paid family care leave, built upon their TDI program, in 2002; IWPR staff members had traveled to Sacramento to present findings on more than one occasion. More recently, New Jersey in 2008 and Rhode Island in 2013 have joined California in expanding their TDI programs to provide paid benefits for family care leave, typically four to six weeks and all paid for by workers through payroll tax deduction.

Currently, the District of Columbia is one of several local and state jurisdictions that is actively exploring how to establish a new paid leave program without a TDI system to build upon. The District won one of four competitive grants offered by the Women’s Bureau, U.S. Department of Labor, to enable research on feasibility, and the District contracted with IWPR for assistance with its analysis. This year, the Women’s Bureau awarded eight grants and IWPR is expecting to work with four of the winning jurisdictions.

The Women’s Bureau grants seemed to have started an avalanche as several other states are spending their own funds on feasibility studies for paid family leave. For sure, an avalanche began in the tech industry as firms competed with one another to offer family leave. As reported by Elle, Netflix started it by offering up to one year paid leave; Microsoft then offered 12 paid weeks for family care, in addition to 8 for maternity disability. Adobe Systems then announced an expansion of maternity leave from 17 to 26 weeks and a doubling of fathers’ time off from 2 weeks to 4 weeks. Amazon responded to all this with 20 weeks off for pregnancy including 4 weeks prepartum and up to 6 weeks off for fathers. Finally, Spotify now gives up to 6 month off with pay anytime from 2 months before birth to a child’s third birthday. Of course, firms with highly skilled talent are more likely to make such an investment, but Facebook also requires its contracting firms (providing services such as food and cleaning among other services) to provide parental leave or a lump sum of $4,000 in lieu of paid leave. Mark Zuckerberg, founder and CEO of Facebook, is currently taking a two month leave after the birth of his family’s first child. Policies and practices such as these dramatically change the climate in favor of change at a national level. It is an international embarrassment that 183 countries have paid parental leave and only the US—along with Papua New Guinea—does not (according to the International Labour Organization).

Should the current discussion on national security leave any room and the issue of family leave reverberate in the presidential election in 2016, change could happen much more quickly than is commonly expected. IWPR’s work will be central to the action! Stay tuned.

Top 5 IWPR Findings of 2015

By Rachel Eichhorn and Rachel Linn

What a year it’s been for the Institute for Women’s Policy Research! In 2015, we released 119 publications, including the seven chapter Status of Women in the States: 2015 report, with an accompanying interactive website. IWPR research was cited more than 2,100 times in media outlets around the country – from a feature in Glamour Magazine to a skit on Comedy Central’s Inside Amy Schumer. Our staff also presented or participated in over 60 meetings and events on key issues affecting women and families.

Below are our top 5 findings of 2015 (plus a bonus!) from our many research reports. Let us know which one you found most interesting or surprising on Twitter or Facebook using #IWPRtop5.

1. The overall best state for women in America is Minnesota. The worst states are Alabama and Mississippi.

SWS EE map

This Spring, IWPR released the highly anticipated Status of Women in the States: 2015 report, ranking and grading the status of women on six topic areas: Political Participation, Employment & Earnings, Work & Family, Poverty & Opportunity, Reproductive Rights, Health & Well-Being, plus data on Violence & Safety.

The site is also the most accessible, comprehensive source of state data on women of color in the U.S. Browse spotlight pages that highlight data on specific groups, such as older women, Millennials, women living in same-sex households, immigrant women, and women in unions.

2. There are five states that will not see equal pay until the next century: Louisiana, North Dakota, Utah, West Virginia, and Wyoming.

Jon Stewart.jpg

A viral segment on The Daily Show called “The Future of Gender Wage Equality” summarized this finding perfectly when Kristen Schaal explained how humans will go to Mars before women get pay equity!

3. Women will not achieve political parity in Congress until the year 2117.

Share of Elective Offices Held by Women

In 2015, 20 of 100 members of the U.S. Senate (20 percent) and 84 of 435 members of the U.S. House of Representatives (19.3 percent) are women. These numbers represent an increase since 2004, but the number of seats held by women in the U.S. Congress is still well below women’s share of the overall population.

4. Nearly half of current exempt Millennial women will gain overtime coverage under new U.S. DOL rule.

millennial overtime.jpg

In a report co-authored by MomsRising, IWPR found that working women—especially young women, single mothers, women workers of color, and women working in service and administrative support positions—have the most to gain from an increase of the overtime salary threshold to $50,440 proposed by the U.S. Department of Labor in July 2015. The collaboration with MomsRising helped to put a human face on those that would be positively affected by the rule change.

5. Women experience higher poverty rates than men for every demographic group and at all ages.

MBK fig. 1

The report, Toward Our Children’s Keeper, provides a discussion and analysis of the interim report of President Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper initiative, using data for males and females together as a reference point. The report argues that initiatives addressing the needs of young people of color should address the needs of girls and young women of color, as well as those of boys and young men of color, rather than targeting separate spending and program initiatives solely at boys and young men of color.


In 32 states, one week of additional earnings of union women is sufficient to cover the costs of full-time child care.

union advantage mapThis summer, IWPR released a briefing paper that converted women’s union advantage into childcare costs. Women represented by a union in the United States earn an average of $212 more per week than women in nonunion jobs. Union women earn more in every state, with the size of the union wage advantage varying across states: union women in Wyoming earn $349 per week more than their nonunion counterparts, while union women in the District of Columbia earn $48 more per week than D.C.’s nonunion women. This union wage advantage for women is sufficient to cover at least the weekly cost of full-time child care in a center for an infant.

You still have a chance to make research count for women in 2015. Click here to make a tax-deductible donation to IWPR.