Women and the Economy

 

The AARP recently published a report finding that almost 1.2 million North Carolinians cared for an adult family member, partner, or friend suffering from chronic illness in 2009. The report also found that nearly two-thirds of caregivers are women and that the majority of these women worked at least part-time on top of the unpaid work of caring for their loved ones.

The struggle to manage a caregiving role in addition to a part- or full-time job is nothing new to many women. Nor are the challenges that persist when mothers balance family and work responsibilities. Unfortunately, women with family responsibilities have long navigated workplaces that ignore today’s family structures and responsibilities.

The demographics of our workforce have completely changed in the last century with women’s increased labor force participation and at the same time the definition of family has fortunately evolved to include single parents and same-sex couples.  Many workplace policies, however, are still based on the concept of a male breadwinner and assume that there is a stay-at-home wife to take care of family responsibilities. Read More

From 2007 to 2009 (the most recent data available), the poverty rate in North Carolina increased from 14.3 percent to 16.3 percent. For women in North Carolina, the rate increased from 16.1 percent to 17.7 percent. Shockingly, this means that almost 828,000 women in North Carolina, or 1 in 5.6 women, lived below the federal poverty level (FPL) in 2009.

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Women and the Economy

Median earnings for women have increased over the past four decades as a percent of male median earnings.  In 1980, women in North Carolina earned just 70 cents for every $1 earned by a man.  By 2010 that figure had increased to 85 cents for every $1.

Despite these gains in earnings for women, significant disparities in pay remain.  National research by Georgetown’s Center on Education and the Workforce found that when looking at lifetime earnings, women with a PhD make as much as men with the BA.  In North Carolina a woman with a graduate or professional degree earns less than a man with a B.A.  Men with some college but no degree earn about the same as women with a B.A.

The official end of the Great Recession was marked by economists in June 2009 but more than twenty-four months later there has been little improvement in the jobs picture.  For women, new research shows this is particularly true.

From the start of the official recovery through May 2011, women lost 218,000 jobs while men gained 768,000.  For the first time in a recovery since 1970, women have lost jobs while men found them.  In North Carolina, a rough analysis of available annual data on employment levels for women and men show a similar picture to the nation.  The recovery period has resulted in continued loss in employment for women (1,000) on net and employment gains for men on net (13,000) from 2009 to 2010.

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This Friday marks the 91st anniversary of the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment, granting women the full right to vote. Women’s Equality Day, celebrated on August 26th , commemorates this crucial achievement that took 72 years of persistent campaigning and, at the time, was revolutionary. Almost a century later, it’s an opportunity to celebrate women’s engagement in the public sphere and to take a good look at the work that remains to be done on the path to equality.

Despite women’s higher college graduation rates and the significant increase in labor force participation over the past decades, wage and income inequality remains.  And the challenges of the Great Recession for all workers, including women, have undermined the prospects for accessing economic opportunity and security. Read More