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Why it’s hard to be a woman in Texas

February 16, 2017  |  Leave a Comment

Via: Dallas Business Journal

If you’re really old — borderline ancient — you just might remember a song in which Tammy Wynette sang about how, sometimes, it’s hard to be a woman. As it turns out, for entirely different reasons than those in Tammy’s tune, it’s still difficult, at least here in the Lone Star State. And as a father of three daughters, ages 17, 16, and 11, I think that’s just sad.

Women in Texas have made progress over the last decades to close economic gaps and ensure they reach their full potential. But much work remains — particularly with low-income women.

That’s the takeaway from the Dallas Women’s Foundation’s “Economic Issues for Women in Texas 2017″ report, which zoomed in on four critical building blocks for women to achieve economic security: Education, child care, health insurance and housing.

The study, authored by Jennifer Lee and Frances Deviney of the Center for Public Policy Priorities and funded in partnership with Texas Woman’s University, examined the economic status of Texas women through a lens of gender, race and ethnicity. It looked at policies and practices at the state level, and identified opportunities in which innovation and investment can help women and their families move from surviving to thriving.

Here’s the full report and findings. Please also click through the attached slide show for highlights.

Key findings:

Education

  • Of the 14 million females in Texas, 17 percent – or 2.89 million – live in poverty, compared to 14 percent of men and boys.
  • Hispanic women (25 percent) and African American women (34 percent) have much lower rates of higher education attainment than white (55 percent) or Asian (75 percent) women.
  • Texas women earn more with every step up in their education. The median earnings of women with a bachelor’s degree are $17,000 higher than women with some college or an associate’s degree. Women with a bachelor’s, however, still earn $20,000 less than Texas men with a bachelor’s degree.
  • A third of jobs are “middle-skill,” requiring some postsecondary training, such as a certificate or industry credential, but not necessarily a bachelors’ degree. Twenty-two percent of Texas women have some college education, but no degree.

Recommendations:

  • Dual enrollment courses in high school, so students can also earn college credit.
  • Help women get training for middle-skill jobs where they will earn more than minimum wage.

Child Care

  • The average yearly cost of full-time child care in Texas is between $7,000 to $9,000 — nearly the average annual cost of college in Texas. Access to child care helps women improve their employment, wages, job stability and advancement opportunities.
  • 62 percent of Texas moms are in the paid labor force.
  • Most Texas children are part of families in which both parents work outside the home, or one parent if in a single-parent family. This describes 59 percent (1.3 million) of children under age 6, and 62 percent (1.7 million) of children ages 6 to 12.

Recommendations:

  • State legislators can build off of existing Pre-K programs and provide additional funding to support full-day programs.
  • Texas can increase the amount of funding available to subsidize child-care costs for those who qualify.
  • Employers can institute family-friendly policies and work options, such as paid family leave, dependent care reimbursement accounts, flex time, telecommuting and greater employee choice in managing work hours.

Health Insurance

  • About 16 percent (2.2 million) women and girls in Texas do not have health insurance.
  • In Texas, 2.2 million women and girls (16 percent) are effectively left out of the health care system because they do not have health insurance, which puts their health and their family’s financial security at risk.
  • From 2013 to 2015, the female uninsured rate in Texas decreased by five percentage points, from 21 to 16 percent. The male uninsured rate also decreased by five percentage points in Texas, from 23 to 18 percent.

Recommendations:

• State legislators can craft a health insurance option that closes the Coverage Gap for low-income adult women.

• Businesses and state legislators can make paid sick leave an earned benefit that is available to more working women.

Housing

  • For most women, housing represents the single largest cost in their budgets. When women have access to affordable housing, they have more resources for investment in education, child care and health insurance, but that’s not the case in the state.
  • A situation called “housing cost burdened” disproportionately impacts single women and women of color. The rule of thumb for housing costs being too high is when a household spends 30 percent or more of its income on housing. About 45 percent of all female headed families are housing cost burdened compared to 31 percent of male-headed families.
  • Women are at higher risk for eviction than men.

Recommendations:

  • State legislators can allow cities to pass local ordinances that protect low-income renters who use vouchers – the vast majority of whom are women – from housing discrimination.
  • Local governments should invest in legal services for women and families facing eviction.

An anecdote

Carine Feyten, president and chancellor of Denton-based Texas Woman’s University, the nation’s largest university primarily for women, shared this anecdote in a panel discussion Thursday:

“A couple of weeks ago, I was testifying before the Senate Finance Committee. You look up, and look at who is on the dais. There are very few people who look like me on the dais.

“The issues are dominated by your own perspectives, she continued. “Everything you have experienced in your life shapes your beliefs and the way you look at the world. We (women) bring a different perspective. Until enough of us are up there, sharing those perspectives, they won’t have the same weight as the majority that is there now. Until there are enough voices that look at reality the way you look at it, it’s never going to be as powerful.”

 

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