IWPR’s Top Five Findings of 2010

by Jennifer Clark

1.  The recent recession was not predominantly a “mancession.”

While men represented the majority of job losses during the recession, IWPR’s research shows that single mothers were almost twice as likely as married men to be unemployed.  Another IWPR briefing paper examines how the “Great Recession” was an equal opportunity disemployer, doubling nearly every demographic group’s unemployment rate. In many families, women increasingly became the primary breadwinner, but they still spent more time in unpaid household labor than men. This imbalance of effort at home persists whether men are employed or not.

2. Only 12 percent of single mothers in poverty receive cash assistance through the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program.

In the briefing paper, “Women in Poverty During the Great Recession,” IWPR shows that the numbers of single mothers in poverty receiving TANF assistance varies in the states. In Louisiana, only four percent of single mothers in poverty have TANF assistance. While in Washington, DC, the jurisdiction where impoverished mothers have the highest enrollment, still only 40 percent of single mothers receive any cash assistance through TANF.

3. Community colleges would need to increase the supply of child care on campus at least 10-fold to meet the current needs of students.

More than one-quarter of the students at community colleges have children, yet the supply of child care on campus does not meet the current needs of students. For many student parents, community college is an avenue to better jobs that allow them to support their families. As part of IWPR’s current project on post-secondary education, IWPR released a fact sheet in June, which noted that the proportion of community colleges providing on-campus care for the children of students decreased between 2001 and 2008, despite the great need.

4.  Young women are now less likely to work in the same jobs as men.

Reversing the progress made by earlier cohorts of young women entering the labor market, younger women today are now less likely to work in traditionally male and integrated occupations, which tend to pay better than traditionally female occupations. When told that traditionally male occupations pay more, women receiving workforce training said they would choose the higher paying job. In addition, women earn less than men in all but four of 108 occupational categories including in occupations-such as nursing and teaching-where women represent the majority of workers.

5. The majority of all likely voters support paid sick days.

IWPR’s new study shows that, while 69 percent of likely voters-including majorities of Democrats, Republicans, and Independents-endorse laws to provide paid sick days, two-fifths of all private sector workers lack this benefit. IWPR’s research also shows preventing workplace contagion of communicable diseases-such as influenza or H1N1-by providing paid sick days will save employers and the US economy millions of dollars.

Jennifer Clark is the Development Coordinator with the Institute for Women’s Policy Research.

Healthy Families Act Hearing

HFA Hearing Photo
Dr. Jody Heymann, Heidi Hartmann, Dr. Rajiv Bhatia and Mr. G. Roger King (Photo by Michelle Schafer)

On Tuesday February 13th, experts and Senators alike braved the wintry District weather to attend a hearing on the Healthy Families Act. Senator Kennedy, Chairman of the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee sponsored a hearing to discuss the need for the Healthy Families Act. Dr. Heidi Hartmann, IWPR’s President, was among those invited to testify. One of her strongest arguments for paid sick days for families included a study done by IWPR that found employers would save an estimated 9 billion dollars in turnover costs. The logic behind this figure is that workers with paid sick days will be more likely to retain jobs therefore lowering the cost of rehiring for their positions by 43%. IWPR’s research provides the best reasoning for why the Healthy Families Act actually benefits businesses, an issue that Senators Enzi (WY), Isakson (GA), Allard (CO) seemed to be most concerned with.
Dr. Hartmann also reminded Senator Enzi and the committee that passing the Healthy Families Act would actually have a positive effect on wage inequity between men and women. Achieving pay equity has been a goal of Senator Enzi’s and of other committee members in other legislation, the Workforce Investment Act among others. Dr. Hartmann emphasized the importance of family leave for women who are often the primary care givers of children and the elderly. With seven paid sick and family care days to be provided by their employers, women would be more able to take a day to care for themselves or a family member without the fear of losing their jobs, a change that will help them retain their jobs and become eligible for seniority-based wage increases and promotions, thus leading to wage increases and contributing to narrowing the wage gap.
Dr. Jody Heymann argued for the Healthy Families Act through an analysis of international competitiveness. Her statistics showed interestingly enough that although the US is among the top 20 most competitive economies in the world, we are the only one without paid family leave. She said that 145 countries provide such leave and that 100 of them provide a month or more for employees. Senator Sanders (VT) seemed most impressed with the international comparison data, while Senator Brown (OH) asked about the data on cost savings.
The hearing was well attended by Acorn members and representatives of various women’s groups. All the Senators and witnesses spoke in favor of paid sick days (it’s hard to be against them), but one witness and several Senators expressed concern that it would cost too much and drive away business. The record was left open so that further questions could be addressed by the witnesses.
– Elisabeth Crum

The Reality of Paid Sick Days

One of the things I love about IWPR is the types of issues we work on. The subjects we conduct our research on are real, everyday issues that most women face. They’re not always the sexiest, most talked-about, hottest topics, but that’s what makes them even more important, because they can be easily overlooked. I’m talking about issues like retirement security, access to quality child care, and paid sick days.
I tutor an 11-year old child once a week. A few months ago, my student’s mother found a job as a guard in an office building. She’d been job hunting for a while, and as a single parent with three kids, she was very happy to have found this position.
When I saw my student last week, he had a cold. His nose was dripping, he was coughing and sneezing, and he kept getting up to either blow or stuff tissue up his nose, in order to stop the flow. After a while, he got fed up and started grousing (who wouldn’t?)

“I don’t wanna go to school tomorrow,” he whined.
“Well, you really shouldn’t go; you sound terrible, and you’re obviously sick,” I told him.
“But I have to go,” he said, sighing.
“Why?” I asked reasonably.
“Because, I can’t stay by myself, and my mom can’t take off work to stay at home with me” he explained. “See, if she stays at home with me, there won’t be as much money for stuff, like our house and everything.”

Here was this 11-year old child’s reality. He sat there, battling a cold, possibly a fever or the flu, and he’d already made up his mind that he’s going to school. Why? Because being sick means less money for his family. His health has a direct economic impact on his household. And he knows this; he more than knows it; it’s part of his life and part of what’s real for him.
This is what we’re trying to get lawmakers to see, to pay attention to. We’re right in the middle of flu season, and 22 million women workers don’t have a single paid sick day . What does this mean? If a woman with no paid sick days gets sick and must stay at home, she takes a pay cut. If she’s lucky, she won’t lose her job for not being able to work. And it affects more than just her. If one of her children gets sick; if her elderly parent she’s caring for gets sick, she has to take a pay cut.
It’s so easy to disengage, to not pay attention. I can’t even accuse myself of being unrealistic – my reality is different from my student’s. I’m not guilty of refusing to listen, just for not paying more attention. Those of us who can absolutely must make those in power listen to this reality.
Dr. Heidi Hartmann, President of IWPR, testified before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions this past Tuesday on the Healthy Families Act. By paying attention and making this reality known to policymakers, we can all help alter the reality that is true for too many American women.
– Amy Lin