The Challenges Women Face Today in an Unstable Economy

Mom & daughter shopping at supermarket
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Women make less money than men. Most people already know without even looking at statistics that women earn less money than men, and that women have fewer employment and advancement opportunities (despite the fact more women hold higher degrees than men), but here are some other areas where women are disadvantaged that you might now know about:

  • 8 in 10 single-parent families are headed by women.
  • Women are more likely to be unemployed during a recession than are men.
  • Women are more likely to be laid off when companies downsize.
  • More women than men work low-wage, part-time jobs.
  • Fewer women than men meet the eligibility qualifications for unemployment benefits (because they earn lower wages and often are only given part-time hours).
  • During a recession, men's median salaries are stagnant but women's salaries have already dropped 3%.
  • For every dollar a man earns working full-time, female workers only earn 77 cents for the same jobs.
  • Women are also less likely to be eligible for employee benefits and employment-based retirement plans such as a 401(k).
  • 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.
  • Lower wages and higher expenses mean women also have fewer savings and assets than men.

Women's Expenses Exceed Those of Men

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

With 8 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, 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.

According to Erin Parrish in the Minnesota Press:

Women often fall victim to risky lending practices, not only because they are more likely to lack financial literacy skills, but also because they are offered subprime mortgages at a higher rate than men. Insecure lending programs are often what push women over the edge, forcing them to choose between feeding their families or paying off debt.

Erin Parrish. Minnesota Women's Press. "MoneyFeature: Women are disproportionately vulnerable in today's unstable economy. " August 7, 2008.