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Joan Entmacher, Vice President for Family Economic Security

Joan Entmacher

Joan Entmacher is Vice President for Family Economic Security at the National Women's Law Center, where she leads a team working to improve policies important to the economic security of low-income women and their families, including tax and budget, child care, child support, unemployment insurance, Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, and Social Security. Ms. Entmacher is a leading expert on issues affecting low-income women. She has been invited to testify before Congress on several occasions, written numerous analyses and reports on income support policies and their impact on poor women, and spoken frequently at conferences, briefings, and to the media. Prior to joining the National Women's Law Center, Ms. Entmacher served as Director of Legal and Public Policy at the National Partnership for Women & Families, Assistant Professor of Political Science at Wellesley College, Chief of the Civil Rights Division of the Massachusetts Attorney General's Office, and attorney in the U.S. Department of Labor Solicitor's Office. Ms. Entmacher is a graduate of Yale Law School and Wellesley College.

My Take

Poor Elderly Women Get Some Respect in the Senate

Posted by Joan Entmacher, Vice President for Family Economic Security | Posted on: March 07, 2014 at 03:10 pm

Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to testify before the Senate Special Committee on Aging about ways to reduce poverty among the elderly. Both Chair Bill Nelson (D-FL) and Ranking Member Susan Collins (R-ME) recognized that although elderly poverty has been reduced dramatically over the past 50 years, it remains a serious problem. This is especially true for women, who are two-thirds of the elderly poor.

Although Social Security does an amazing job of lifting older women out of poverty—without it, nearly half of older women would be poor—millions of older women—especially women of color and single elderly women—still live in poverty.  

There is another program intended specifically to provide a safety net for poor elders and people with disabilities: Supplemental Security Income, or SSI. Two-thirds of aged SSI recipients are women, and SSI does make a difference for many; in 2012, it lifted nearly 317,000 seniors out of poverty and 450,000 out of deep poverty (deep poverty means an income below 50 percent of the federal poverty line, or $5,500 a year for an individual). But between 2011 and 2012, the number of seniors living in deep poverty increased by 235,000, while the number of seniors receiving SSI increased by fewer than 23,000. When the growth in the number of elders in deep poverty is more than ten times the growth in the number receiving SSI, we know our safety net for poor elders is failing.


President Obama's Proposed Expansion of the EITC Will Benefit 6.1 Million Working Women

In President Obama’s FY15 budget he proposes expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) [PDF] for workers without dependent children.

This expansion would benefit women at all stages of their lives. It will help young women entering the workforce, including financially independent students. It will help mothers, whose earnings have been reduced because of caregiving, after their children have left home. It will also help older women seeking to supplement or increase their Social Security benefits.

Women are a majority of low-wage workers, and this proposal means that the tax code would no longer push low-wage, childless workers into poverty. Instead, it rewards work, boosts incomes, and reduces poverty.


Gender Wage Gap for Union Members Is Half the Size of Non-Union Workers' Wage Gap

Today the Bureau of Labor Statistics released new data on union membership for 2013. The data show women’s union membership held steady in 2013 after dropping sharply the year before – and that’s a relief for women seeking better wages and equal pay.

NWLC analysis reveals that the wage gap among union members is half the size of the wage gap among non-union workers and female union members earn over $200 per week more than women who are not represented by unions—an increase that represents a larger union premium than men receive.

This release is especially timely. Earlier this week the Supreme Court heard arguments in a case that challenges the right of low-wage workers, overwhelmingly women, who provide home care services under Illinois’ Medicaid program—and potentially the right of all public employees—to be represented by unions. Today’s data make it clear that this case has high stakes for working women and men.

Here are all the details:


Poverty Among Seniors Is Far Worse than First Appears

Posted by Joan Entmacher, Vice President for Family Economic Security | Posted on: November 06, 2013 at 05:13 pm

A disturbing finding from today’s Census Bureau report on poverty using the Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM):  the rates of poverty and extreme poverty among seniors are dramatically higher than under the official poverty measure. Specifically:

  • The poverty rate for people 65 and older under the SPM was over 60 percent higher under the SPM than under the official measure: 14.8 percent of seniors were considered poor under the SPM in 2012, compared to 9.1 percent under the official measure.
  • The extreme poverty rate (income less than 50 percent of the poverty threshold) for people 65 and older was nearly 75 percent higher under the SPM than under the official poverty measure (4.7 percent under the SPM v. 2.7 percent for the official measure).

In contrast, the rates of poverty and extreme poverty among children under 18 were lower under the SPM than under the official poverty measure:

  •  The poverty rate for children under 18 was 18 percent under the supplemental measure, compared to 22.3 percent under the official measure.
  • The extreme poverty rate for children dropped by more than half, to 4.7 percent under the SPM compared to 10.3 percent under the official measure.


Who Thinks a 1.5 Percent Cost-of-Living Adjustment Is Too Much?

Posted by Joan Entmacher, Vice President for Family Economic Security | Posted on: October 30, 2013 at 02:16 pm

The Social Security Administration today announced the cost-of-living adjustment for 2014: beginning in January 2014, benefits will increase by 1.5 percent.  For the typical single elderly woman with a benefit of $1,100 per month, this represents an increase of just $16.50 per month. This year’s COLA adjustment is even lower than last year’s 1.7 percent increase.

And yet, as budget negotiations resume today, some lawmakers still are considering proposals to reduce the deficit by cutting Social Security benefits. Specifically, they would adopt a different—and lower—measure of inflation that would reduce annual COLAs: the chained Consumer Price Index (chained CPI). As we’ve explained before, the chained CPI is especially dangerous for women, because the benefit cut from a reduced COLA gets deeper every year you live, women tend to live longer than men, and their benefits are lower to start with. Read more...