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Low-Income Workers and Families

Let Them Eat (Taxpayer-Funded) Cake: Restaurant CEOs Benefit From Subsidies While Workers Struggle

That whole “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” argument never made much sense to me. Not only do I have serious questions about the physical logistics (You can’t hold on to anything? Are bootstraps even sturdy?), I also don’t buy the extreme do-it-yourself logic. Literal pioneers aside, most of us depend on the organization, infrastructure and support of others. But so-called bootstrapping arguments persist, even when they’re – let’s just say it – completely ridiculous.

Case in point: Restaurants that pay their workers poverty-level wages (free market!) while their CEOs benefit from government subsidies for their own pay (taxpayer subsidies for CEOs!).

The Institute for Policy Studies released a new report this week that details just how some major restaurant chains are working the system – and leaving taxpayers to foot the bill.  A number of restaurants have come under scrutiny because they pay their employees so little that they have to rely on safety net programs to meet their families’ basic needs, such as health insurance through Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), food stamps (SNAP), and tax credits for low-income families like the Earned Income Tax Credit.  Read more »

Low-Wage Jobs, High-Cost Child Care, and Stay-at-Home Moms

The percentage of mothers who stayed at home increased from a low of 23 percent in 1999 to 29 percent in 2012, according to a new study by the Pew Research Center [PDF]. This represents a turn-around from the trend in previous decades, when the percentage of mothers who stayed at home steadily declined from 47 percent in 1970.

There are many possible explanations for the recent increase in the number of mothers staying at home—but economic factors clearly play a major part.

Women deciding to enter today’s labor force face daunting prospects—unemployment rates remain well above pre-recession levels and jobs are hard to come by. In fact, Pew reports that the share of women who stay home with their children because they cannot find a job has risen by five percentage points since 2000. And when jobs can be found, they are very low-wage. NWLC analysis shows that over one-third of women’s job gains [PDF] since 2009 have been in the 10 largest low-wage occupations, which typically pay $10.10 or less per hour.  Read more »

Women in Low-Wage Jobs Deserve Equal Pay for Equal Work

It should be startling that even in the ten largest jobs that pay very low wages –$10.10 an hour or less – women still see a 10 cent gender wage gap on the dollar.* And this is despite the fact that women make up more than three-quarters of the workers in these jobs.

Across the income spectrum, the wage gap hurts women and families. But women in low-wage jobs can least afford it. They are already making do with less. They shouldn’t have to make do with pay discrimination too.

Mothers with children under 18 make up nearly one-quarter of these workers, although they make up just over 16 percent of workers overall.  In 2011, 40 percent of households with children under 18 had a mother as the primary breadwinner—and two-thirds of those households were led by single mothers with a median family income of just $23,000.  These hardworking breadwinner moms and their families deserve equal pay for equal work. Read more »

The State of States and Equal Pay in 2014

This Tuesday, April 8th is Equal Pay Day—the day women would have to work until (in addition to working all of 2013!) to make the same amount of money that men made in 2013. We all know that nationally, women working full time, year round typically make 77 cents for every dollar paid to their male counterparts, and the figure hasn’t budged in a decade. You should also know that the wage gap is even worse for women of color—African-American women working full time, year round make only 64 cents, and Hispanic women make only 54 cents, for every dollar paid to their white, non-Hispanic male counterparts.

The national wage gap figures grab headlines but what’s less talked about is the variability in the wage gap by state. For example, in D.C. women working full time, year round make 90 cents for every dollar paid to men (which puts DC at #1 in terms of women’s pay equity), but in Wyoming women make only 64 percent of what men make (#51).

States that have smaller wage gaps for women overall don’t necessarily have smaller wage gaps for all groups of women, and there are some stark differences for women of color. Again looking at our nation’s capital, African-American women in D.C. make only 56 cents for every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men, which makes DC the 4th worst state in the country for African-American women’s pay equity. Similarly, in California women overall make 84 percent of what men make (putting California at #6 in women’s pay equity), but Hispanic women in California make only 44 percent of white, non-Hispanic men—making California the 2nd worst state in the country for Hispanic women’s pay equity.  Read more »

NWLC Releases New Report! Reality Check: Seventeen Million Reasons Low-Wage Workers Need Strong Protections from Harassment

Did you know that a narrowly divided 5 to 4 Supreme Court recently watered down protections for victims of workplace harassment? More than 15 years ago, the Supreme Court recognized the potential for supervisors to abuse their power over their subordinates and employers’ responsibility to prevent that abuse. And the Court put in place strong protections from harassment by a supervisor. But the Court’s recent decision in Vance v. Ball State University [PDF] rolled back those protections by including within their reach only supervisors with the power to take actions like hiring and firing. The Vance decision said that supervisors who direct daily work are now mere coworkers in the eyes of the law, and must bring their cases under the much more difficult standard that applies to coworker harassment claims. Now workers will have a much harder time holding their employers accountable for harassment committed by lower-level supervisors who assign tasks, set schedules, and control other aspects of their day-to-day work. As Justice Ginsburg noted in her dissent, the decision was “blind to the realities of the workplace.”

Reality Check: Seventeen Million Reasons Low-Wage Workers Need Strong Protections from Harassment, released today by NWLC, highlights three particularly important workplace realities: Read more »

Raising the Minimum Wage Promotes Equal Opportunity for Women, People of Color

Raising the minimum wage isn’t just about making ends meet. It’s about equality.

Women and people of color are disproportionately represented in minimum wage work, and an increase in the federal minimum wage could make a huge difference in the lives of these workers and their families. It could mean lifting families out of poverty, providing more stable base incomes for low-wage workers, and taking steps to close the wage gap. But it all starts with action.

Read more »

When $9.49 Isn't Enough: HBO's Revealing Portrait of One Working Mother

If you want a harrowing reminder of the human reality of the policies, and spending priorities, that NWLC champions, look no further than HBO’s new documentary, “Paycheck to Paycheck, the Life and Times of Katrina Gilbert.” The new film profiles Katrina Gilbert, a 30-year-old single mother of three children, all under the age of 5, living and working in Chattanooga, Tennessee. 

In my work at the National Women’s Law Center, sometimes among all the statistics and infographics, if you’re not careful it’s possible to lose sight of the daily reality of the 18 million women living in poverty. Yet watching each facet of Katrina’s story I was continually reminded of how the public policies that may seem abstract would have tangible consequences for Katrina and her family. Read more »

6 Pie Charts for Pi Day: Women and the Low-Wage Workforce

In the data visual representation world, pie charts are often maligned [PDF] as the lesser version of a bar chart. Sure, it can be difficult to grasp precise information when it is presented in pie-form, but pie charts can also be a simple way to compare parts to a whole. Since today is Pi Day (∏=3.14159…= March 14th is 3.14, get it?) I thought it would be a great time to display the power of pie charts when representing proportions. In particular, I’ll show you how women are disproportionately represented in low-wage jobs in three sets of pie charts based on new NWLC analysis of data from the Current Population Survey.

For this analysis, the “low-wage workforce” is defined as the ten largest jobs that typically pay less than $10.10 per hour. These jobs and the percentage of women in each occupation are: childcare workers (95%); home health aides (89%); maids and housekeepers (88%); personal care aides (84%); cashiers (72%); waiters and waitresses (70%); combined food preparers and servers (65%); bartenders (58%); food preparation workers (56%); and hand packers and packagers (49%). As you can see, women make up about half or more of workers in each of these occupations. Now the pie charts will tell the rest: Read more »

Colorado Bill Improving Child Care Tax Credit Advances Out of Legislative Committee

The early learning experiences of children make a huge difference. Unfortunately, low- and moderate-income families are in desperate need of resources to help pay for child care. In Colorado, for example, the average cost of center-based child care [PDF] was $12,621 for an infant and $9,239 for a four-year old (in contrast, the average in-state tuition at a public Colorado four-year college was $7,849). Unfortunately, for many families, such help is hard to come by.  In Colorado, a family earning up to 85% of state median income (around $58,000 a year for a family of three in 2013) may be eligible for child care assistance, but in many counties, the income limit is much lower.  And a family of three with income at 150% of the federal poverty level (around $29,295 a year in 2013) would still have to pay $269 per month, or 11% of their income, in child care co-payments.  For those families, $3,228 per year is a significant chunk out of their budget.  And although Colorado offers a refundable tax credit for child care expenses, the current structure of the credit makes it almost impossible for low-income families to benefit.  Read more »

Six New Facts on Why We Must Raise the Minimum Wage and Advance Equal Pay

We like numbers! We’ve previously identified 10 reasons why raising the minimum wage is a women’s issue. Well, we’ve been crunching some new employment and wage data and wanted to share these new six facts (and a chart!) that underscore why it’s critical to raise the minimum wage and advance equal pay and equal opportunity for women:

  • Three-quarters: The share of workers in the 10 largest low-wage occupations (defined in this analysis as those with median hourly wages of less than $10.10 per hour) who are women (76 percent), compared to 47 percent of all workers who are women.