The Challenges Women Face in an Unstable Economy

Mom & daughter shopping at supermarket

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Women earn less money than men. Each year the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports on the differential of the wages of men and women. In 2018, they found that full-time, salaried women had weekly salaries of 81% of their male counterparts.

During the 1980s the female-male wage ratio moved upwards from a low of 64% to 70%. Women closed the gap more during the 1990s, moving to be paid within 77% as much as the wages that were paid to men. As we moved into the 2000s slow progress continues to be made. Again, according to BLS data, women's wages went from 76.4% in 2001 to a high of 82.2% in 2011 before retreating to 81.1% in 2018.

Most people already know without even looking at statistics that women earn less money than men. Women also, historically, have fewer employment and advancement opportunities—despite the fact, more women hold higher degrees than men.

Other Places Women Are Disadvantaged

If wages and promotion opportunities are not enough, there are other areas where women are disadvantaged. According to a Harvard study, the median net worth of unmarried women was $12,900, compared to $26,850 for men. The study cited the wage gap as the primary cause of this inequity.

More women than men work low-wage, part-time jobs. Also, they are more likely to be laid off when companies downsize. Since companies downside in hard economic times, women are more likely to be unemployed during a recession than are men. When they do find themselves on the unemployment line, fewer women will meet the eligibility qualifications to receive benefits. This lack of benefits is primarily because they earned lower wages and often are only given part-time hours.

Even those women who stayed employed during a recession will find themselves at a hardship. During a recession, men's median salaries are stagnant but women's salaries have already dropped 3%.

  • Eight in 10 single-parent families are headed by women.
  • Women are also less likely to be eligible for employee benefits and employment-based retirement plans such as a 401(k).
  • Lower wages and higher expenses mean women also have fewer savings and assets than men.

Women's Expenses Exceed Those of Men

Men and women pay the same high prices for food and gas, but women often bear expenses than men, with higher incomes, do not.

With eight in 10 single-parent families being headed by women, it is women who have to balance the dual roles of work and parenting - not men. When dead-beat dads fail to pay child support, many women have to pick up the tab by taking on additional, low-wage jobs to try and make ends meet.

Nearly every state in the U.S. has now cut funding and programs (also reduced at the federal level) that once helped women enforce their child support awards and trained them to re-enter the workforce, and Congress has even severely cut funding to women's business development centers beginning in 2009.

Because of loopholes, changes in child support laws, and fewer affordable legal resources for women, an increasing number of men are defaulting on child support. This means more women are now paying all, or disproportionate amounts, to provide for the needs of their children.

Women often pay higher insurance premiums and more out-of-pocket health care costs than men, who do not have to pay for birth control or maternity benefits, and because more women pay for health insurance for their children than do men.

Women's credit scores are generally equal to or better than men's, but with lower incomes and smaller assets, to purchase a home women need to go with a "subprime" mortgage 30% to 40% more often than men, which means a lower down payment, but higher monthly payments. These borrowers often fall prey to predatory lending practices. According to a report by The Boston Globe:

"Women borrowers are overrepresented in the subprime lending market according to studies done by both the Consumer Federation of America and the National Community Reinvestment Coalition. Across the economic spectrum, women receive less favorable terms than similarly situated men on a home purchase, refinance, and home improvement loans. The studies also show that the gap between women and men receiving subprime loans actually increases as women's income increases."