We’ve been sharing lots of information about women’s economic security lately. Economic security, sometimes referred to as financial stability, means having the resources, including human, social and financial capital, that provide safeguards against crisis and a foundation on which to build strong futures and families.
In today’s world, more and more families’ economic security depends on women’s income: 58% of all Texas families with children rely on the mothers to be bread-winners or co-breadwinners. So, how economically secure are our Texas women and their families?
- 30% of all Texas households are female-headed, yet they represent 53% of households living in poverty.
- Women in Texas earn only 77 cents for every dollar a man earns.
- 63% of all minimum wage jobs in Texas are held by women.
- Texas women are 1.2 times more likely to live in poverty than men.
I hope you find those statistics as alarming as we do, and that they lead you to ask, “Why?” Why are women less financially secure than men? Why should all people – men and women, rich and poor alike – care?
Why Should We Care?
All around the world, and right here in North Texas, when a woman does not have the resources and capital to achieve economic stability, her children are less
likely to attain it, and the cycle perpetuates. With 161,000 female-headed households in North Texas living in poverty, the economic security of women affects not only the woman but also her children and family.
Dallas Women’s Foundation is – and continues to be—dedicated to helping all women achieve economic security. We’ve been investing in programs that support women’s economic security since our inception in 1985. We know, and the research supports, that women’s financial stability is crucial to the well-being of a community. It is the reason we conduct research to determine which factors will help women achieve economic security – so that we can identify and fund programs and organizations that are most effective and proactive in strengthening women, their families and our communities to build a better world.
In 2014, we commissioned Economic Issues for Women In Texas to examine the root causes and critical effects of economic instability. We found four main building blocks that significantly affect a woman’s economic stability: education, child care, health insurance and housing.
Education is the primary pathway to better-paying jobs.
We know that a woman with an associate’s degree, bachelor’s degree or other high education credential is much less likely to live in poverty. For full-time workers, women with a high school diploma earn 44% more than women without one. Texas women with bachelor’s degrees earn nearly twice what women with high school diplomas earn. And yet we know there is a leak in this pipeline to economic security. Fewer than half of women in Texas who enroll in college complete a credential within six years. And women who do receive degrees leave school with more student debt than their male counterparts – despite both genders working an average of 20 hours per week while attending a four-year college.
Access to child care is a critical work support.
For women with young children, reliable and affordable child care determines their ability to work and/or go to school. Women face difficult trade-offs between what they can earn from working and what they must pay for child care. In Texas, a typical single mom earns slightly less than $24,000 per year, and at an average cost of $5,000 per year per child, the care for just one child represents 21% of her income. Care for infants easily tops $8,000 per year. Keep in mind that one out of every four families with children are headed by a single woman.
Health insurance is a financial shield that many working-age women do not have.
Prior to passage of the Affordable Care Act, one in four Texas women lacked health insurance. Almost 500,000 Texas girls under 18 do not have health insurance, and women between the ages of 18 – 24 are the least likely to have health insurance. We know that without health insurance, illness, an accident or even child birth poses a serious threat to a woman’s economic security.
Stable housing is a foundation of economic security.
For most women, housing represents the single largest cost in their budgets. In Texas, 63% of single-mother renters are burdened by high housing costs. When women do not have access to affordable housing, they have less money to invest in education, child care and health insurance. Stable housing is also increasingly important to a child’s health and educational outcomes.
What Can We Do?
This research – and our role as the largest regional women’s fund in the world and the only foundation in North Texas focused on women and girls – compels us to act. What can we do to make real and lasting change in the economic condition of all Texas women, so that our children, our families and our communities will benefit?
We’re already three years into our Economic Security Initiative, a strategic, long-term effort to strengthen the economic security of 16,000 female heads of households and their children in the North Texas region by 2021, and to increase public awareness of the importance of women’s economic security to our region and state. Thus far, we’ve committed over $4.1 million toward the Initiative, and our goal is to invest $10 million or more by 2021 in research, advocacy and the most effective programs that build economic security for women and girls.
I hope you’ll be compelled to be a part of this critical work. That you’ll watch for more stories and information as we share more about our work and impact in women’s economic security. In the meantime, stay updated daily through our social media posts, share this information and research with your friends and colleagues, and join us in making the changes that can ensure women’s economic security now and for the future.