A project of
Category: What We're Reading
June 14, 2017

Does Hard Work Pay Off For Black Women?

“Despite increasing college attendance and labor-force participation, African American women still aren’t getting the economic security of their white peers.”

The Atlantic examines a new report from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research and the National Domestic Workers Alliance explores why “the importance of women’s economic health in the black community is hard to overstate.

“That’s in part because black women tend to shoulder a lot of their households’ financial burden. More than 80 percent of black mothers are the breadwinners (defined as sole earner or bringing in at least 40 percent of total earnings) in their household. That’s compared with 50 percent of white mothers. And three-quarters of the black women who hold breadwinner status are doing so alone.”

In addition to analyzing the economic challenges and social inequities that black women face, the IWPR/NDWA report offers critical suggestions for how to improve the economic position of black women.

“The authors note, for instance, that union membership could increase black women’s earnings by more than 30 percent a week. They also suggest that policy changes that would generally improve wages, health coverage, and paid leave could particularly help black women. And increasing the representation of black women in politics and policy could help create a political system that actually addresses the problems that black women face.”

Read the full report at TheAtlantic.com

June 9, 2017

CAP: Who Votes with Automatic Voter Registration?

A new report from the Center for American Progress analyzes the impact of Automatic Voter Registration in Oregon, and finds significant differences between AVR registrants and voters who registered using traditional means.

“Compared with traditional registrants and voters, AVR registrants and voters were:

  • Noticeably younger—about 40 percent of AVR registrants and 37 percent of AVR voters were age 30 or younger. In comparison, 20 percent of eligible Oregon citizens are age 18 to 29

  • More likely to live in suburban areas and less likely to live in urban areas

  • More likely to live in low- and middle-income areas

  • More likely to live in lower-education areas

  • More likely to live in racially diverse areas—the average AVR registrant’s community was more Hispanic and less white than that of traditional registrants 

While every state may have different attributes, Oregon provides strong evidence in favor of automatic voter registration. AVR strengthens democracy by expanding and broadening the electorate. AVR’s streamlined systems can save states and localities significant costs, make the voter registration lists more accurate and up to date, and increase the security of the voting system. AVR is the next logical step in creating an efficient, secure, and modern voter registration system for the 21st century.”

June 5, 2017

538: Democrats Are Overperforming In Special Elections Almost Everywhere

Electoral trends since the November election have been so clear, “as Trump himself might say, “There’s something going on.”

“Since Trump took office, voters have gone to the polls 24 times1 in 13 states to fill vacancies in their state legislatures — giving us a data set that is robust enough for us to start identifying patterns. And the results in these races echo the returns from Kansas and Montana: Democrats have overperformed almost everywhere.2

Since Jan. 20, Democrats have won 12 special legislative elections, and Republicans have won 11.3 But because so many special elections take place in safe districts, win-loss records can only tell you so much. Instead, you’re better off comparing their final results to the district’s baseline partisanship, which FiveThirtyEight measures using a weighted average of the last two presidential election results4 as calculated by Daily Kos.5 And in the 15 special legislative elections to pit at least one Democrat against at least one Republican,6 12 have seen a net swing toward the Democrats.”

Voting rights advocates are watching closely, and for good reason: the 2018 midterms could have a substantial long-term impact.

If nothing else, 2017’s legislative elections so far put Democrats on track to make big gains in statehouses across the country in 2018 — the sector of government where the party suffered the most during the Obama years. That’s important because the next round of redistricting is less than four years away, meaning 2018 will decide many of the governors and legislators who will draw the congressional districts of the 2020s. From the smallest of small elections on a random Tuesday in this odd year, clues are being dropped about who might hold the balance of power in Washington for the next decade or more.

Read the full analysis at FiveThirtyEight.

May 31, 2017

Women’s Student Debt Crisis in the United States

A new study from AAUW explores the financial reality of being a woman in America, in which increased student borrowing compounds (and is compounded by) the fact that women earn less than men for equal work.

“Right now about 44 million borrowers in the United States hold about $1.3 trillion in outstanding student loans. The scale of outstanding student loans and an increasing share of borrow­ers who fail to repay have made many Americans aware that student debt is a challenge for society and for individual borrowers. Yet despite the fact that women represented 56 percent of those enrolled in American colleges and universities in fall 2016, many people do not think of student debt as a women’s issue. This report reveals that women also take on larger student loans than do men. And because of the gender pay gap, they have less disposable income with which to repay their loans after graduation, requiring more time to pay back their student debt than do men. As a result, women hold nearly two-thirds of the outstanding student debt in the United States — more than $800 billion.

AAUW’s report “offers a broad overview of how student debt became a women’s issue. It aims to change the conversation around student debt so that it includes gender-based analysis and solutions. The analysis examines the experiences of women as a diverse population and presents statistics by race and ethnicity as well as other demographics. The report relies heavily on publicly available federal government survey data as well as published studies undertaken by academics and organizations researching the issue of student debt.”

May 23, 2017

Heather Booth: She’s The Best Answer To Donald Trump You Never Heard Of

The Voter Participation Center is looking forward to the release of Heather Booth: Changing The World, a documentary film exploring our longtime friend and former board member’s history in organizing and progressive politics. But don’t wait for the movie – Huffington Post’s new profile of Heather is a must-read!

“Booth, 71, is one of the nation’s most influential organizers for progressive causes. Inside almost every liberal drive over the past five decades ― for fair pay, equal justice, abortion rights, workers’ rights, voter rights, civil rights, immigration rights, child care ― you will find Booth. But you may have to look hard.”

“Because she’s not always at the head of the protest march. More often, she’s at a let’s-get-organized meeting in a suburban church basement or a late-night strategy session in a crumbling neighborhood’s community center. She’s helping people already roused to action figure out practical ways to move their cause forward. And always she’s advancing the credo she learned as a child: that you must not only treat people with dignity and respect, but you must shoulder your own responsibility to help build a society that reflects those values.”

…The Trump era “is a perilous and inspiring time ― both are true,” she told HuffPost. “The peril can’t be overstated. I do think families will be ripped apart, people will unjustly be imprisoned, jobs will be destroyed. I think lives may be destroyed,” she said. “I fear for unjustified wars. I think the structure of democracy itself will be threatened, from simple protections of people’s health and safety to the ability to live a decent life. So … a time of great peril.”

“But …” She allowed herself a broad smile, offering a glimpse of the spirit that has powered uphill battles all these years. “I am incredibly heartened by the outpouring of people standing up to say, ‘You’re not going to do this. We are going to defend our lives, our families. Our democracy! And we are going to defend each other.’”

“If you stand together and organize,” Booth said, “you can change the world.”

Read the whole profile at HuffingtonPost.com.

May 17, 2017

The Haves and Have Notes of Paid Family Leave

Paid Leave for the United States (PL+US) has a new report that looks at the different paid parental leave offered to corporate vs frontline employees at some of the country’s largest companies – and the impact that inequity has on low-income families.

In the United States today, paid family leave is an elite benefit: 94% of low-income working people have no access to paid family leave. Millions of Americans don’t get even a single day of paid time for caregiving. 1 in 4 new moms in the U.S. is back at work just ten days after childbirth. While public discourse often focuses on income inequality, there is another critical way families experience inequality: the inability to be with their babies and families for the most important moments of their lives.

Read the PL+US report’s findings and their index of the top retailers leading the way — and the major corporate employers that are lagging behind.

May 9, 2017

Why did Trump win? More whites — and fewer blacks — actually voted.

Check out this deep dive from four Washington Post reporters:

“Using data from the voter file vendor Catalist and information from the U.S. Census Bureau, we examine the change in turnout rates for different racial/ethnic groups between 2012 and 2016. Black turnout declined dramatically; white turnout increased noticeably; and Latino and Asian American turnout went up even more. In the key swing states of Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania, those shifts were especially strong. How strong? Without those shifts in turnout from various racial and ethnic groups, these pivotal states might have gone not to Trump but to Clinton — giving Clinton an electoral college victory.”

Two graphics in their piece show the stark difference in turnout:

“As you can see, the national average hides dramatic differences among states. For example, as we’ve said, the African American turnout rate fell by 4.7 points nationally. But in Michigan and Wisconsin — two key Midwestern states where, to analysts’ surprise, Trump won — black turnout fell by more than 12 points.

Similarly, overall white turnout increased by only 2.5 points nationally. But in several states it surged by more than 5 points. In the critical battleground state of Florida, white voter turnout jumped by 4 points — and black turnout fell by 4 points. Trump won Florida by a margin of just 1.2 points.”

So, in the end, what impact did decreased / depressed turnout of Black voters have on the election?

“If we changed nothing but the turnout rates of various racial and ethnic groups, in Michigan, the actual Clinton loss by .2 percentage points would have become a victory by 1.5 percentage points. Clinton’s actual loss by 0.7 percentage points in Pennsylvania would have been a 0.5 percent victory. And instead of Trump winning Wisconsin by 0.8 points, Clinton would have won by 0.1 percent. Clinton’s electoral college total would have been 278 votes, putting her in the White House.”

“Of course, these measures are estimates and subject to error. Interpret cautiously. But what’s clear is that the jump in white turnout in key swing states and drop in black turnout may well have handed the presidency to Trump.”

May 9, 2017

Wisconsin’s Voter-ID Law Suppressed 200k Votes in 2016 (Trump Won by 22,748)

Ari Berman writes in The Nation:

 “A new study by Priorities USA, shared exclusively with The Nation, shows that strict voter-ID laws, in Wisconsin and other states, led to a significant reduction in voter turnout in 2016, with a disproportionate impact on African-American and Democratic-leaning voters. Wisconsin’s voter-ID law reduced turnout by 200,000 votes, according to the new analysis. Donald Trump won the state by only 22,748 votes.

The study compared turnout in states that adopted strict voter-ID laws between 2012 and 2016, like Wisconsin, to states that did not.”

“While states with no change to voter identification laws witnessed an average increased turnout of +1.3% from 2012 to 2016, Wisconsin’s turnout (where voter ID laws changed to strict) dropped by -3.3%. If turnout had instead increased by the national- no-change average, we estimate that over 200,000 more voters would have voted in Wisconsin in 2016.”

Read the full story at The Nation.

April 26, 2017

The Middle Class Is Shrinking, And It's Becoming More Female

The United States Census Bureau’s new report, “The Changing Economics and Demographics of Young Adulthood: 1975–2016,” reveals how much being a grown up has changed over the past forty years. “Marrying and having children,” the report states, are not seen as “very important.” Instead, young people prioritize “educational and economic accomplishments.”

A CNBC analysis confirms that “it’s not just ideas that are changing, though. The middle class is shifting altogether. It’s not just getting smaller; it’s also becoming more female.”

The report contains a bit of good news for young women:

“The report states that “young women have made considerable economic gains … The share of young women who earned $60,000 or more grew from about two percent to 13 percent — a minority, but still a sizable change.” Though in part because the men at the top still make so much more, young women’s median incomes remain “$11,000 lower than the income of young men.”

However, “women of all ages still hold many fewer of the most highly paid jobs. According to BLS data, there are a handful of jobs in which women make at least $1,300 a week, but as CNBC reported this year in honor of Equal Pay Day, “In the most lucrative professions, women make up less than 30 percent in each role.”

Read the Census Bureau’s full report at Census.gov.

April 6, 2017

IWPR: #EqualPay Cuts Poverty Rate In Half for Children with a Working Mother

The Institute for Women’s Policy Research recently published a new report on The Impact of Equal Pay on Poverty and the Economy. This in-depth study explores the economic benefits that equal pay would offer families with a working mother – as well as the harsh realities that Americans currently face due to the wage gap.

Top findings include:

  • Nearly 60 percent of women would earn more if working women were paid the same as men of the same age with similar education and hours of work. Nearly two-thirds (65.9 percent) of working single mothers would receive a pay increase.
  • Providing equal pay to women would have a dramatic impact on their families. The poverty rate for all working women would be cut in half, falling from 8.0 percent to 3.8 percent. The very high poverty rate for working single mothers would fall by nearly half, from 28.9 percent to 14.5 percent.
  • For the 15.3 million single women—divorced, widowed, separated, and never married women living on their own—equal pay would mean a significant drop in poverty rates from 10.8 percent to 4.4 percent.
  • Approximately 25.8 million children would benefit from the increased earnings of their mothers if they received equal pay.
  • The number of children with working mothers living in poverty would be nearly cut in half, dropping from 5.6 million to 3.1 million.

Read the full report at IWPR.org.

...