Study Examines Building Blocks of Women’s Economic Security
Texas Women’s Foundation, the research and advocacy arm of Dallas Women’s Foundation, released a new study – Economic Issues for Women in Texas – that examines the economic status of women as well as the critical blocks necessary for women to achieve economic security. The study looks at policies and practices at the state level, and identifies areas of opportunity where innovation and investment can help women and their families move from surviving to thriving. Over the next six months, a series of metro area reports will be released that will break down the differences and commonalities for nine areas: Amarillo, Austin, Dallas, El Paso, Fort Worth, Houston, McAllen, San Antonio and Tyler.
“In Texas, 30 percent of all households are female-headed, yet 53 percent of all households living in poverty are female-headed. Even women who are living above the poverty line in Texas face significant challenges to achieving economic security – from low-paying jobs, the high cost of child care, the lack of insurance benefits or the high costs of housing,” explains Roslyn Dawson Thompson, president and CEO of Dallas Women’s Foundation and Texas Women’s Foundation. “We know that when you invest in a woman, there is a powerful ripple effect that benefits her family and community. Simply put, increasing women’s economic security makes financially secure families and communities – and that makes for a stronger Texas economy. Our goal is that this study will create a common understanding of the issues Texas women face, help us gain a common language about the challenges and opportunities ahead, and lead all of us – community leaders, elected and appointed officials, nonprofit organizations, donors and partners – to find common solutions to improve economic security for Texas women.”
Women’s earnings are increasingly critical for families’ economic security in Texas. The percentage of families with breadwinning or co-breadwinning mothers has increased in the past 40 years from 34 to 58 percent of all Texas families with children. For many families, when women’s earnings don’t cover basic expenses, they must make tough choices about what kind of care their child will receive, the food they put on the table, and the safety of the home and neighborhood they live in. However, the wage gap makes this increasingly difficult. In Texas, the wage gap for full-time workers amounts to a $9,158 difference in earnings per year.
The report details how women’s responsibilities continue to grow, but their compensation has not caught up because they are more likely to work in low-paying jobs without benefits, and must also accommodate their caregiving responsibilities at home. While there are many existing policies and programs intended to lift women and girls out of poverty, they were designed assuming that one adult could earn enough income to support an entire family, while the other adult raises the children. This is no longer the case, and like everywhere else in the world, in Texas, women are the face of poverty.
THE BUILDING BLOCKS OF ECONOMIC SECURITY
Economic Issues for Women in Texas looks into four building blocks that provide the path and protection for women to achieve and sustain economic security: education, access to child care, health insurance and housing.
Education is the primary pathway to better-paying jobs and economic security. Women with a high school diploma earn 44 percent more than women with less than a high school diploma. The cost of higher education in Texas is prohibitive for many. From fall 2003 to fall 2012, the total cost of college in Texas has doubled. Borrowing to pay for education can lead to a personal debt burden that hinders the beginning of a student’s working life.
Access to Child Care:
If work expenses such as child care and transportation were included in the poverty calculation, the US poverty rate would increase by almost two percent. The typical cost of child care for a full-time, working parent in Texas is around $5,000 a year per child. A typical single mother in the state earns slightly less than $24,000 per year making child care 21 percent of the family income. Half of all infant-care options cost more than $8,000 per year; more than the average annual cost of college in Texas. Reliable and affordable child care determines a mother’s ability to go to school, job interviews and / or work.
For uninsured women, illness or an accident poses a serious threat to economic security. In Texas one in four females lack health insurance; thirty-six percent of women have no health insurance during the primary childbearing years (18 to 34 years old) when good health and access to prenatal care is so important. These uninsured women and girls are less likely to receive the care that can detect something like cervical cancer or a problematic pregnancy, which would reduce the danger and expenses associated.
For most women, housing represents the single largest cost in their budgets. In Texas 63 percent of single-mother renters are burdened by high housing costs, meaning that they spend 30 percent or more of their income on housing. When women have access to affordable housing for their families, they have more resources for investment in education, child care and health insurance.