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Low-Income Workers and Families

Winning the Lottery Shouldn’t Be the Only Ticket to Economic Security

Most of us have probably thought about what we’d do if we won the lottery. From the more financially responsible options—pay off student loans, buy a house, invest in retirement accounts—to the more far-fetched (lifetime supply of chocolate, anyone?), the possibilities are endless.

This week, that dream came true for Marie Holmes, a single mother of four from North Carolina who won $188 million from Powerball

Accounts of Holmes’ win mention that until recently, she had been working two jobs at McDonald’s and Walmart to support her children, one of whom lives with cerebral palsy. And although we don’t have in-depth details about Holmes’ job situation or family life, the basics of her story—working more than one low-wage job and struggling to take care of her children—echo the experiences of women across the country. Read more »

Working Families Pay Too Much in State and Local Taxes

Remember when a presidential nominee famously said, “Forty-seven percent of Americans pay no income tax. …” ?

According to the Tax Policy Center [PDF], that was the approximate fraction of households that paid no federal income tax for 2009. But, as the Tax Policy Center went on to explain, almost two thirds of the 47 percent work and contribute payroll taxes that help finance Social Security and Medicare. The temporarily unemployed, those who used to work and have now retired, those who make too little to be subject to the income tax, and entrepreneurs whose businesses experience a loss may not be paying income tax or payroll tax in a particular year but will have contributed a great deal over time. And let’s not forget the wealthy and big corporations who exploit loopholes to avoid taxes. Read more »

Starve American Workers Act Is More Like It

Yesterday the House of Representatives passed H.R. 30, a bill to chip away at the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that employers provide health coverage for employees who work at least 30 hours a week, amending it so that employers would only be required to provide health insurance coverage to those who work 40 hours per week. Read more »

Putting a Value on Caregiving

Everyone knows that raising children is pricey—the USDA estimates it costs nearly $250,000 to raise one child to adulthood (not even counting college!).  But what you might not know is how much all the time and effort parents put in to childrearing is worth to our economy. This is because the value of unpaid caregiving and childrearing—the lion’s share of which is done by women—is largely unrecognized and rarely quantified. Read more »

The Persistent Inequality in Women's Economic Security

Here at NWLC, the work we do on behalf of women and families recognizes that without economic security, women cannot truly achieve equality.  Take a quick glance at our latest numbers on women living in poverty, and you’ll see that we have a long way to go.

Data released last month from the Census Bureau showed the continuation of a long-standing reality – that women are far more likely to be poor than men.  The poverty rate for women was 14.5%, compared to only 11% for men. 11% is higher than pre-recession poverty rates for men, yet still lower than women’s record-low poverty rate, which was 11.5% back in 2000.  This disparity holds true across racial and ethnic groups— in 2013 Black, Hispanic, Asian and Native American women all had higher poverty rates than their male counterparts.  Read more »

On Heartbreak and Butter Cake: A Dispatch from St. Louis

Genius organizer Ai-Jen Poo often talks about how home care workers and other domestic workers are the invisible workforce – performing life-sustaining work for low wages and no benefits day in and day out. But this week in St. Louis at the Home Care Workers Rising conference home care workers made their dreams and their struggles highly visible. They came together from across the country to hammer out plans for a better future for themselves, their children, and the consumers for whom they provide care. Read more »

Paycheck Fairness, Part II — Raise the Minimum Wage!

Yesterday, a majority of the Senate voted to proceed to debate on the Paycheck Fairness Act, a bill that would strengthen current laws against wage discrimination and make it easier for women to ensure that their employers are paying them fairly. A vote on the merits of this bill is long overdue, and Senate passage would be a critically important step forward.

But the Paycheck Fairness Act is not the only bill that could help close the gap between women’s and men’s earnings — which hasn’t budged in a decade, as women working full time, year round are still typically paid just 77 cents for every dollar paid to their male counterparts. One reason for this persistent wage gap is that women are overrepresented in low-wage jobs: for starters, they make up two-thirds of minimum wage workers. Another bill, the Fair Minimum Wage Act, would boost pay for these workers by gradually raising the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 per hour, increasing the tipped minimum cash wage from $2.13 per hour to 70 percent of the minimum wage, and indexing these wages to keep up with inflation.  Read more »

Closing the Wage Gap at Gap

Equal pay is achievable – just ask Gap Inc. Earlier this week the company announced that that it is paying men and women equally for work on the same jobs. It worked with a consulting firm to evaluate its pay practices and confirm pay parity between the sexes. The company also revealed that it is ahead of the curve in terms of its numbers of women in leadership positions.

Gap’s success in maintaining equal pay is all the more striking when you consider that women working in the retail sector as a whole experienced a 32 cent wage gap compared to their male counterparts in 2011. This gap for the retail sector is much larger than the overall wage gap between men and women. Read more »

Instability at Work Wreaks Havoc on Moms and Children

Have you ever heard of “clopening?” It’s when a worker has to close up the shop, store, or restaurant where they work late at night and then report for an early-morning shift just a few hours later. Stressful scheduling like clopening frequently occurs when employers use scheduling software designed to maximize profits—often at the expense of working mothers and their children. This week, the New York Times featured a front-page profile of Jannette Navarro, a mom who works as a barista at a Starbucks in New York City. Jannette’s story shows how the scheduling practices of major chains are unsustainable for moms who need child care, as well as highly detrimental to their children, who bear the brunt of a lack of stability.

The challenges for Jannette Navarro and many women like her begin with the scheduling software many companies use to determine employees’ shifts based on how much business they anticipate. This software enables companies to increase their profits by reducing labor costs, but it works, as the New York Times calls it, by “redistributing some of the uncertainty of doing business from corporations to families.” Jannette typically received her always-changing schedule just three days in advance, leaving very little time to arrange child care for her 4-year-old son, Gavin. While Gavin could attend a preschool program during the day, shifts early in the morning or later in the evening forced Jannette to scramble to get a friend or relative to take care of him—and Gavin’s child center is not open on weekends. Furthermore, Jannette worried about losing access to child care because of her work schedule, since Gavin’s eligibility depended on her working a minimum number of hours, and she was always at risk of not getting enough. Read more »

Closing the Literacy Gap Through Early Learning

As summer winds down this month, children across America are getting their backpacks, pencils, and books ready to go back to school. While a new school year means a new classroom, new teacher, and new lessons to learn for most children, some will be left behind, held back a year because they have difficulty reading. The New York Times reported Monday that more and more states are requiring schools to hold back third graders who do not read on grade level. Yet when children are forced to repeat a grade, it may already be too late—several studies have found that students who have to repeat a grade are more likely to drop out of high school. A more effective way to improve children’s literacy is by ensuring children have high-quality early learning opportunities that give them a strong start even before entering kindergarten.

Low-income children are particularly likely to lag in their reading skills. Children in economically disadvantaged families may lack opportunities to develop their language skills at home.  They tend to be read to less regularly, have fewer books in their homes, and hear fewer words in their early years.  In addition, they often are unable to participate in high-quality early learning programs, because such programs are too costly for their parents, unavailable in their neighborhoods, or inaccessible due to parents’ challenging work schedules, lack of transportation, or other barriers. Read more »