Employment, Education, and Economic Change
IWPR examines the quality of jobs across a diverse range of workers and job types, with an emphasis on low-wage employment. Our research explores access to employment benefits such as paid leave, pensions, and health insurance, as well as the adequacy of governmental work supports including Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) and Social Security. The area also covers the use and value of "family-friendly" policies such as paid time off to care for sick family members, flextime, telecommuting, and child care assistance.
IWPR tracks the gender wage gap over time in a series of fact sheets updated annually. According to our research, if change continues at the same slow pace as it has done for the past fifty years, it will take almost another fifty—or until 2056—for women to finally reach pay parity. IWPR’s project on sex and race discrimination in the workplace shows that outright discrimination in pay, hiring, or promotions continues to be a significant feature of working life.
Recognizing the necessity of higher education in increasing women’s earning power, IWPR’s Student Parent Success Initiative (SPSI) seeks to improve access and graduation for low-income student parents—particularly mothers—in college settings. Specifically, through a combination of research and outreach activities that aim to encourage information-sharing, educate leaders and policy makers, and improve public policies and resources, SPSI works to raise awareness about both the challenges and promise represented by parents seeking postsecondary degrees.
IWPR publishes occasional analyses of the impact of the business cycle on women’s employment outcomes. Between December 2007 and June 2009, the U.S. economy was in the worst recession since the Great Depression of the 1930s. Because much of the slowdown has occurred in traditionally male fields such as manufacturing and construction—while a few traditionally female fields such as health and education have shown job growth or minimal job loss—many reports have focused on the job losses among men in the labor force.
Democracy and Society
IWPR’s “Status of Women” reports are a unique source of comprehensive information on women. IWPR has analyzed data on a wide range of indicators at the local, state, national, and international levels, including demographics, economic security, educational attainment, reproductive rights, political participation, civic engagement, and access to health care and work supports. To date, IWPR has released reports on each U.S. state and the District of Columbia, in addition to several city/area reports, and a series of reports and a toolkit on Women in the Middle East and North Africa. Each report offers policy recommendations shaped by the research findings for that state or city/area.
Despite the growing number of immigrant women in the United States, their interests and concerns are often overlooked in public policy debates. IWPR’s research finds that women immigrants experience a number of challenges, such as reproductive health issues, domestic violence, and poor job quality within traditionally female positions. Many immigrant women—especially those who lack legal status—also face barriers to receiving support or services. To help address these challenges and raise the visibility of immigrant women’s contributions and concerns, IWPR conducts research on the social and economic circumstances of immigrant women and the resources available to them.
With the goal of informing policy on the issues of social programs, economic security, and the work environment for women, IWPR researches women’s leadership in unions as well as the impact of unionization on employment, income, and benefits overall and in different industries. IWPR’s recent and current work on women and unions provide analyses of labor markets for the communications and retail food industries, and guidelines for promoting women’s leadership in unions.
On an ongoing basis, IWPR continues to identify successful strategies to encourage women’s participation in civic and political life. From 2003-2008, IWPR conducted research with female activists working in a range of contexts—including interfaith organizations, unions, and secular social justice movements—about their experiences in taking on public leadership roles and the sources of motivation that inspired their involvement in this work.
Poverty, Welfare, and Economic Security
IWPR is a leading national resource on women’s income security—especially the economic security of women in retirement and the possible effects of Social Security changes on women.
Around the world, women tend to be in poverty at greater rates than men. The United Nations reported in 1997 that 70 percent of 1.3 billion people in poverty worldwide are women, while American Community Survey data from 2009 tells us that 55.2 percent of the 42.9 million people living in poverty in the United States are women and girls. Women’s higher likelihood of living in poverty exists within every major racial and ethnic group within the U.S. Among people in poverty, 16.7 percent are younger women ages 18 to 34, compared to 12.3 percent men in that age range.Older women are also much more likely than older men to live in poverty.IWPR has served as a resource on women’s poverty issues since its founding in 1987.
IWPR researchers began studying women’s circumstances along the U.S. Gulf Coast almost immediately after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and were among the first to respond with that focus. IWPR’s current research with women in the post-Katrina Gulf region suggests that improvements to policy and planning can help with everyday life, as well as in emergencies or disasters.
Work and Family
Student parents make up 26 percent of community college students and many have young children, yet IWPR's research shows that child care available only meets a tiny fraction of the need. Improving child care access is not only about improving access to sources of care and education outside the home, but also requires increasing parents' ability to care for their own children. Significant investments in children's well-being in the early years has enormous long-term payoffs. IWPR has worked both national and state levels—in California, Kansas, Illinois, and the District of Columbia—to estimate the costs of implementing early care and education expanses. IWPR also developed a "how-to" manual demonstrating how other states can adapt the model to serve their specific policy needs.
In a 2009 briefing paper, IWPR reported that employees who attended work while infected with H1N1 are estimated to have caused the infection of as many as 7 million co-workers (according to data compiled by IWPR from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Bureau of Labor Statistics). Public opinion tends to support PSD policies as demonstrated by a 2010 survey by IWPR. The survey of registered voters, funded by the Rockefeller Foundation, found that more than two-thirds of registered voters (69 percent) endorse laws to provide paid sick days.
In 2008, IWPR released a report focusing on statutory employment rights aimed at increasing workers’ ability to change their working hours and arrangements in 20 high-income countries. Statutory Routes to Workplace Flexibility in Cross-National Perspective includes statutes providing a general right to alternative work arrangements as well as those targeting work-family reconciliation, lifelong learning, and gradual retirement, and argues that an explicit right to request flexible working can play an important role in preparing the U.S. economy for the future.
Health and Safety
IWPR’s research on women’s health and safety informs policy decisions by identifying gender and racial/ethnic disparities in health outcomes and access to health care services in addition to highlighting opportunities for improvement. IWPR’s reports and resources discuss a range of policy issues including access to paid sick days, the relationship between women’s health and socio-economic status, cost-benefit analyses of paid sick days provision, and rates of breastfeeding.