The Recession's Deepening Toll on Women

The Recession’s Deepening Toll on Women

Single women and women of color are experiencing the greatest percentage of unemployment in the U.S. and women, in general, are experiencing the greatest percentage of job losses in two decades, according to a recent Community Voices on the Economy report. The study found that the 2009 unemployment rate of African-American single mothers was 17.7%, and the rate for single Latina mothers was 13.8%.

On June 24th, feminist leaders from the legislative branch and the advocacy community discussed these disturbing findings at a forum on “The Recession’s Deepening Toll on Women.”

Panelists included Representatives Carolyn Maloney (NY), Rosa DeLauro (CT), Linda Sanchez (CA), and Gwen Moore (WI). Also presenting were Sarah Gould from the Ms. Foundation, which commissioned the study in conjunction with the Center for Community Change; pollster Celinda Lake, who carried it out; and Patricia Nalls of The Women’s Collective.

Women and, in particular, single women of color, are reporting significantly higher percentages of living paycheck to paycheck, knowing someone who has lost their job/losing a job themselves, and knowing someone/personally experiencing a decrease in wages, hours, or tips. Moreover, 5 in 10 black women and 4 in 10 Hispanic women struggle to pay their bills on time, and 1 in 5 black women,1 in 5 Hispanic women and 1 in 10 white women have difficulty putting food on their table.

As a result of the disparity between the wages of men and women, women tend to lose an average of $400,000 to $2 million over the span of a lifetime. Because of the recession’s impact on families of all sizes, varieties, incomes, and races, women are entering the workforce in increasingly large numbers and are oftentimes either large contributors or sole breadwinners for their families. Not only are single women experiencing diminished earnings as a result of the recession, but married or cohabiting couples are quickly learning the importance of equal pay for equal work. Men in strikingly large numbers are coming to understand the importance of the earned wages of their wives, mothers, and sisters.

According to Celinda Lake, paycheck fairness is becoming a universal issue that affects multiple individuals and crosses multiple boundaries. It must be resolved before the American economy can begin to turn around.

Each of the panelists called for support of the Local Jobs for America Act, which would:

  • Provide $100 billion over two years to create or save 750,000 jobs providing local services.
  • Save 300,000 education jobs with a $23 billion investment this year.
  • Provide 50,000 on-the-job training slots to help local businesses create employment opportunities and provide workers with new skills.
  • Target communities with high employment needs, focusing on individuals who have experienced longer-term unemployment and/or are veterans.
  • Allow up to 5% of nonprofit funding for community jobs to be used for supportive services such as child care and transportation assistance.

Sponsors of this Congressional briefing were the National Partnership for Women & Families, Ms. Foundation for Women, National Women’s Law Center, Center for Community Change, and Wider Opportunities for Women.