Skip to contentNational Women's Law Center

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

Being a Woman Means You’re More Likely to Be Poor – and 3 Other Things You Should Know about Women and Poverty

Posted by Joan Entmacher, Vice President for Family Economic Security | Posted on: September 17, 2013 at 01:10 pm

More than 1 in 7 women live in poverty.

The Census Bureau just released new data on poverty in the U.S. in 2012. We’re continuing to crunch the numbers (we’ll have other blog posts and analyses), but here’s a first look at the numbers for women and families:

  • More than one in seven women, nearly 17.8 million, lived in poverty. The poverty rate among women was 14.5 percent in 2012, statistically unchanged from 2011, and the highest rate in two decades. 
  • The poverty rate for men in 2012, 11.0 percent, was lower than for women, and also was statistically unchanged from 2011. Although men’s poverty rate in 2012 was higher than in 2007, before the start of the recession, it was lower than women’s poverty rate in 2007—and lower than women’s record-low poverty rate (11.5 percent in 2000).
  • Poverty rates were particularly high for women who head families (40.9 percent), black women (25.1 percent), Hispanic women (24.8 percent), and women 65 and older living alone (18.9 percent).
  • More than one in five children, 21.8 percent, lived in poverty. More than half (56.1 percent) of poor children lived in female-headed families.


Last Week, Chained CPI—This Week, Raising the Retirement Age and More

Posted by Joan Entmacher, Vice President for Family Economic Security | Posted on: August 14, 2013 at 10:47 am

It’s August in Washington, DC and Congress is out of town—but the House Ways and Means Committee wants to know what you think about additional ways to cut Social Security benefits.

Through last week, Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI) invited comments on adopting the chained CPI: a proposal that would reduce annual cost-of-living adjustments for Social Security and cut the value of benefits more and more every year. Seven thousand of you joined us to tell the Committee that the chained CPI is especially harmful to women. Now the Committee is asking for comments by August 29 on other proposed benefit cuts, including raising the retirement age and changing the benefit formula to reduce benefits.

Raising the retirement age is really just another way to cut benefits. It reduces benefits no matter when an individual claims benefits. Increasing the retirement age from 67 (the current retirement age for people born in 1960 or later) to 69 would reduce benefits by about 13 percent, whether an individual claims benefits at 65, 67, 69—or even 70.


Trustees’ Report Shows that Social Security Isn’t Broke, Will Be There When We Need It

Posted by Joan Entmacher, Vice President for Family Economic Security | Posted on: May 31, 2013 at 01:50 pm

The Social Security Trustees released their annual report on Social Security’s finances today. Though you wouldn’t know it from reading some of the media coverage, the hard facts show that we can count on Social Security—whatever our ages. Here are five things you should know about Social Security’s finances:

  1. Social Security can pay 100 percent of promised benefits for the next 20 years – until 2033 – even if Congress takes no action.
  2. Social Security can continue to pay 77 percent of promised benefits after 2033 from payroll taxes, even if Congress takes no action. There is a long-term shortfall that needs to be closed—but Social Security isn’t going broke.

Typical Single Elderly Woman’s Social Security Benefit Won’t Fully Recover from Chained CPI – Unless She Lives to 104

Posted by Joan Entmacher, Vice President for Family Economic Security | Posted on: April 11, 2013 at 12:40 pm

As expected, President Obama’s FY 14 budget includes a proposal to use the “chained Consumer Price Index” – a slower-growing measure of inflation that would cut Social Security benefits by reducing annual cost-of-living adjustments. This is not just a technical change – but a benefit cut that would cause real hardship to the elderly and the poor. The President’s budget recognizes this threat and proposes some protections for vulnerable beneficiaries from the chained CPI – but NWLC analysis shows that this strategy is not adequate.

The budget proposes a bump-up in benefits for long-term beneficiaries, who would experience the worst cuts because the cuts grow deeper every year. In addition, the budget would not apply the chained CPI to needs-based benefit programs, such as Supplemental Security Income, or use it to determine eligibility for programs like SNAP (Food Stamps).

NWLC’s analysis finds that the small and gradual benefit increases from the bump-ups wouldn’t restore the monthly benefit of the typical single elderly woman to current-law levels—unless she lives to 104.


Here's an Idea: Instead of Cutting Women's Social Security Benefits, Let's Improve Them

Posted by Joan Entmacher, Vice President for Family Economic Security | Posted on: March 21, 2013 at 03:35 pm

No, the threat to women’s Social Security benefits from the chained CPI hasn’t gone away. After the House and Senate finish voting on their separate budget resolutions this week, the real bargaining begins. And the proposal to cut Social Security benefits by using a lower measure of inflation — the chained Consumer Price Index — to reduce annual cost-of-living adjustments is still very much on the table. Indeed, it's part of the President’s announced plan for deficit reduction, if increased revenues are also part of the deal. 

But after a long week of budget debates that still isn’t over, it’s time to take a break for a little good news. Congresswoman Gwen Moore (D-WI) just introduced the Social Security Enhancement and Protection Act of 2013. Her bill would improve Social Security’s minimum benefit, increase benefits for long-term beneficiaries, restore the student benefit, and strengthen the financing of the Social Security system for decades — without cutting benefits. 

The bill would improve Social Security’s minimum benefit — a change that would be especially valuable to women, who are a majority of low-wage workers and are more likely than men to take time out of the paid labor force to raise children. And, it would recognize the value of childrearing work by allowing credits of up to five years toward the minimum benefit when a parent was raising a child under age six.