Are women really on track to become “the richer sex” and replace men as primary breadwinners in American families, as recent headlines suggest? Not quite. The notion that women are outpacing men on the job has become a popular media narrative over the past few years. But the data on which it’s based don’t hold up.
Last week, the Bureau of Labor Statistics revealed that, in fact, we’re in the middle of a “mancovery”—while women are slipping backwards. Between June 2009 and June 2011, women lost close to 300,000 jobs, while men gained more than 800,000. “We've never seen a recovery like this,” the National Women's Law Center's Joan Entmacher told NPR, “where two years into the recovery women are doing so much worse than men and are actually losing ground.”
Still, the popular perception is that women are soaring. Much is made of the “fact” that more than 40 percent of American women are their family’s breadwinner. In her recentTime magazine cover piece (adapted fromher new book, The Richer Sex), for example, journalist Liza Mundy cites 2009 Bureau of Labor Statistics data saying that one in four women outearn their spouses. This claim was picked up by scores of media outlets.
But look a bit more closely at the numbers, and the picture doesn’t seem so rosy for women. Which women are advancing? Andwhich men are backsliding? The answers are important if you are going to talk about who’s getting “rich.”
Breast-feeding comes with an often-overlooked cost to new mothers, according to a new study by Phyllis L.F. Rippeyoung, an assistant professor at Acadia University in Nova Scotia, and published in the American Sociological Review.
Breast-feeding comes with a cost to new moms that is often overlooked, according to a new study published in the American Sociological Review. The study looked at data from 1,313 first-time mothers in the U.S. who were in their late 20s or 30s when they gave birth.
Women’s incomes dropped precipitously when they choose to breast-feed for six months or longer -- and they remained low some five years after the babies were born, says the study’s lead author, Phyllis L.F. Rippeyoung, an assistant professor of sociology and coordinator of women’s and gender studies at Acadia University in Nova Scotia.
Rippeyoung’s interest in the hidden costs of breast-feeding was sparked by personal experience. When she became a mom, she was flooded with information about the benefits of breast-feeding -- including the suggestion that it would save her money.
“I thought that it was weird that they were saying it was free,” Rippeyoung remembers. “I was a grad student at the time driving back and forth between teaching and classes, and my milk was drying up since I couldn’t drive and pump at the same time. It was a very difficult thing, but I had to stop breast-feeding. If I’d continued I couldn’t have worked at the same time.”
The data for the new study came from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, which included information about the moms’ jobs and incomes, as well as stats on their family life, including the decision to give their babies formula or to breast-feed for a short duration (less than six months) or a long duration (six months or more).
In 1996 the federal government enacted “welfare reform” legislation eliminating “welfare as we know it” by replacing Aid to Families with Dependent Children or “AFDC” with Temporary Assistance to Needy Families or “TANF” as the national welfare program for families with children. Since its inception in 1996 to the present, TANF has continuously shrunk the share of poor families aided by the program. Benefit amounts, already quite meager even prior to welfare reform, have fallen further below the official poverty level. Read the report in the link below.
Bryce Covert looks at 2010 Census data, which shows that stay-at-home mothers are more likely to be younger, Hispanic, and less education--and most likely "choose" to be stay-at-home mothers out of economic necessity in the face of childcare costs.
A study in 2010 conducted by the Census, looking at its own data on stay-at-home mothers, showed that as compared to the make-up in 1979, today’s moms in the home are younger, less educated, and much more likely to be Hispanic – and in particular, foreign born. The report states, “on average stay-at-home mothers do not have higher levels of educational attainment compared with their counterparts.” In fact, 18 percent lack a high school degree, compared to just 7 percent of women in the workforce. They are also younger: women under 35 are more likely to be stay-at-home mothers now than they were in 1969.
The statistics on race paint a clear picture that the face of stay-at-home motherhood is more and more likely to be Hispanic. In 1969, 94 percent of stay-at-home mothers were white. That figure dropped nine percentage points between then and 2009. Meanwhile, the number of Hispanic stay-at-home mothers shot up. In 1979, a mere seven percent of stay-at-home mothers were Hispanic, but that increased to 27 percent in 2009. That’s a difference of about 11 percent between stay-at-home mothers and other mothers. These women also tend to be foreign born: 23 percent of stay-at-home mothers are from another country, as compared to 11 percent of other mothers.
Why would Hispanic women born in other countries stay out of the workforce? One of the major factors, the Census study says, may be that with less education and potentially more limited job skills, it may be a practical consideration. Because it can mean that they are unable to get higher paying jobs, which leads them to fall behind financially. According to an analysis run by the New York Times, those households have a median income of $64,000, over $10,000 less than those in which women are in the workforce.
This is a very different picture than the white, ultra-wealthy Ann Romney, and also possibly different than the mothers pictured in P&G’s ad. Why? Because given all of these considerations, it’s likely that the women staying home aren’t doing so because of a choice so much as a financial consideration.
Childcare is anything by cheap in this country. The National Association of Child Care Resource & Referral Agencies reports that the average annual cost of putting an infant in full-time care can hit $18,200 on the high-end, and the cost for a four-year-old can be as much as $14,050. For a household making that median $64,000, that figure can eat up almost 30 percent of its income. Subsidies are meant to help families plug that hole and get to work, but we’ve recently been pulling back on that support. TheNational Women’s Law Center has reported that 37 states have made getting help paying for childcare more difficult through putting people on waiting lists, requiring higher copayments, lower reimbursements for childcare providers, and making eligibility even more stringent. The result will be far fewer families who can pay for childcare.
In a reversal of traditional gender roles, young women now surpass young men in the importance they place on having a high-paying career or profession, according to survey findings from the Pew Research Center. Two-thirds (66%) of young women ages 18 to 34 rate career high on their list of life priorities, compared with 59% of young men. In 1997, 56% of young women and 58% of young men felt the same way.
Pew Research Center Report, April 2012 by Eileen Patten and Kim Parker
Asia Society and the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy deliver “Rising to the Top?”, a study that highlights the current socio-economic landscape for women in China and the region. The report discusses gender gap issues and presents policy recommendations to ease gender inequality.
A new CNN/ORC International poll shows that most Americans now think the number of women in the workplace is a good thing for children of working mothers, which is a significant change from attitudes on that topic in the 1980s and 1990s.
The CNN/ORC International poll also indicated that nearly nine in ten Americans approve of mothers of young children working outside the home, even if their husbands can support their families. Six in ten women, including six in ten mothers of children under the age of 18, said they would prefer to have a job outside the home.
Congrats, ladies! By today you’ve earned the same as men did in 2011. That gap means that the typical woman working full-time, year round, makes about seventy-seven cents for every dollar a typical man does, and those missing twenty-three cents can really add up. In a year a woman loses $10,784 to a man—enough to buy about 2,700 gallons of gas. It can add up to a loss of $431,000 in pay for the typical woman over a forty-year career. No small chunk of pocket change.
This issue hasn’t gone unnoticed. The first thing President Obama did after settling into the West Wing was to sign the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act into law, which expanded the statute of limitations on lawsuits over equal pay. Yet Ledbetter did little to actually change the gap: it stood at seventy-seven cents when the bill was passed at 2009, where it stands today.
But this high holiday of gender inequality is not the day to get dragged down in pessimism! After all, it can’t be totally out of reach to change this thing that’s barely budged in fifty years, amiright? In the spirit of moving forward and focusing on real solutions, here are some quick steps we can all take to make the gap disappear: