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.”
The following excerpt is from Voter Participation Center’s extensive new report, Unmarried Women in America, 2017.
In the United States today, more than one out of every two women is unmarried – divorced, separated, widowed, or never been married. Single women are one of the fastest-growing demographic groups in America. Between 2004 and 2016, the percentage of unmarried women in the population grew by two percentage points, and the percentage of married women dropped by two points:
Unmarried women are living very different lives than married women in the United States; unmarried women make less money, are more likely to live in poverty, to be unemployed, and to have no health insurance, savings, or retirement income. This “Marriage Gap” is not just economic, but political. Marital status has been proven to determine voting participation and preferences.
But instead of recognizing this fundamental change in the lives of the majority of American women and adopting policies that address the economic and diverse realities of single women’s lives, the Trump administration and their Republican allies in Congress are now poised to enact health care, budget, and tax plans that will hurt all women, but unmarried women disproportionately.
To have their voices heard, affect policy changes, and exact a political price, they must vote at levels that reflect their strength in the population. In 2016, even though single women had the numerical edge in terms of eligible voters, they were not registered and did not vote at the levels of married women, who are less progressive in their views.
Right now, close to one third of eligible unmarried women aren’t registered to vote, and more than one in ten of the single women who were registered in 2016 didn’t vote.
Clearly, single women have more power to shape the policy and political debate than they are using. Read the full report: Unmarried Women in America, 2017.
Unmarried Women: Registration and Voting (2016)
Unmarried Women Voting - 2016 Election
A new report from the Center for American Progress, The Pillars of Equity: A Vision for Economic Security and Reproductive Justice, explores in detail the reasons that “reproductive health, rights, and justice must be integral to a successful, 21st-century economic agenda” and offers concrete policy recommendations designed to help women achieve economic security and reproductive justice in tandem.
This comprehensive policy approach “requires a policy agenda that promotes self-determination, access to comprehensive and affordable services, parenting supports, and a responsive workplace. This ensures that women—regardless of location, income status, race, sexual orientation, or age—have access to the services and resources they need in a timely, culturally competent, respectful, and affordable way that will help contribute to their economic mobility.”
“An investment in reproductive health means an investment in America’s promise of equality for all. That promise must be as adaptable and expansive as the roles women play in society. Policies and cultural norms must evolve so that women can participate freely in society and use all of their talents to strengthen families. Economic opportunities for women ensure that they can chart their own reproductive destiny and better achieve economic security. When all people are able to achieve their best economic opportunity, the entire national economy thrives and grows.”
The proposed Trump budget released on March 16 increases spending on defense and homeland security by making big cuts to domestic spending that will disproportionately affect women and the poor — including slashing the budgets for the WIC nutrition assistance program, job training programs for disadvantaged youth and seniors, important medical research at the National Institutes of Health, afterschool programs and aid to low-income and minority college students, and neighborhood investments for low-income communities.
Overall, the trend in Trump’s budget is clear, just like it is in the health care proposal being put forth by Trump and the Republicans: Tax cuts for the wealthy and increases in military spending, “paid for” by cuts to government programs that historically help working- and middle-class Americans — especially unmarried women, people of color, and young people.
March 20 Update: We’ve added a more thorough analysis of the FY2018 cuts to the Department of Education and the Department of Labor, and how these cuts would hurt unmarried women, people of color, and young people in particular.
The National Partnership for Women and Families has released a fact sheet on the state of family-friendly policies that affect the economic stability and well-being of women and families — and the news isn’t good. The wage gap, discrimination on the basis of pregnancy, a lack of paid family and medical leave and paid sick days, unpredictable scheduling and hours, and stagnant wages continue to keep women, particularly mothers, from realizing their economic potential.
The fact sheet concludes with several legislative proposals to improve the economic stability of women and families, writing:
Women, their families and our nation urgently need policies to promote fair pay and create modern workplace standards, bolstering their financial security now and promoting economic opportunities in the future.
Read NPWF’s fact sheet, “Not Enough Family Friendly Policies: High Stakes for Women and Families.”
For International Women’s Day and the “A Day Without a Woman” strikes occurring across America, the Institute for Women’s Policy Research has compiled together 5 important facts to know about women and the economy:
1. Hispanic women will wait 232 years for equal pay, if current trends continue.
2. Equal pay would cut poverty by more than half for working women and grow the U.S. economy.
3. Job Segregation keeps 1 in 4 working women in traditional care, serving, and cleaning roles with lowest pay.
4. Women account for only 1 in 3 workers in good, growing, middle-skill occupations.
5. A national paid leave policy could help young working mothers, a group least likely to have access to leave.
Read more from IWPR about these economic barriers women continue to face in our economy.
The numbers are in: “The Women’s March of 2017 was the largest protest in recent history, bringing together over 500,000 people in DC- the location of the flagship march, and over 2.9 million people nationwide.”
Their findings “suggest that the Women’s March has potentially lit the political fires of a new generation of activists and reactivated the political activism of others. Indeed, a third of the participants reported that the Women’s March was their first time participating in a protest ever. For over half of the participants (55.9%), the March was their first protest in 5 years (including those who had never participated before).”
The U.S. Census Bureau’s latest report gives undeniable evidence of “a persisting large gender gap in incomes in the United States. The fact that nearly one fifth of all family households are headed by a single woman and that these households have incomes far below the national average, is cause for major concern.”
WIAReport continues, “for single women living alone, the median income in 2015 was $29,022. For single men living alone, the median income was $40,762. Thus, single women had a median income of 71.2 percent of the median income of single men.”
Indeed, the data shows that the median income for households headed by single women in 2015 was $37,797, and that these counted for 19% of all households in America.
In their new interactive report, NWLC explores why raising the federal minimum wage, and protecting tipped workers, is so important to helping women in America support themselves and their families. “Why? Because women represent nearly two-thirds of minimum wage workers across the country, and more than three-quarters of minimum wage workers in some states. Today, the federal minimum wage is just $7.25 per hour, and full-time earnings of $14,500 a year leave a family of three thousands of dollars below the federal poverty line. Twenty-nine states and the District of Columbia currently have minimum wages above the federal level, but in almost every state, the minimum wage leaves a full-time worker with two children near or below the poverty level.”
“… because women are the majority of workers who would get a raise, increasing the minimum wage would also help close the gender wage gap.
The Economic Policy Institute took an in-depth look at the pay gap, and the factors that cause it. Finding that “Women are paid 79 cents for every dollar paid to men—despite the fact that over the last several decades millions more women have joined the workforce and made huge gains in their educational attainment,” the authors conclude that:
“The gender wage gap is real—and hurts women across the board. Too often it is assumed that this gap is not evidence of discrimination, but is instead a statistical artifact of failing to adjust for factors that could drive earnings differences between men and women. However, these factors—particularly occupational differences between women and men—are themselves affected by gender bias. Serious attempts to understand the gender wage gap should not include shifting the blame to women for not earning more. Rather, these attempts should examine where our economy provides unequal opportunities for women at every point of their education, training, and career choices.”