Thursday, May 13, 2010

Impacts of the Recession on California’s Women and Families

As always, whatever affects California’s women also affects California’s families. The California Budget Project (CBP) recently released a report about the effects of the Great Recession on California’s working women which holds some disturbing demographic information as we look to economic recovery.

Early in the recession, layoffs were concentrated primarily in construction and manufacturing sectors that employ a greater share of men. But, more recently, layoffs have been concentrated in sectors that employ a greater share of women. For example, jobs in K-12 public schools and community colleges started to decline in the summer of 2008, disproportionately affecting women who represent more than six out of 10 workers in the local government sector.

The unemployment rate for women doubled between 2006 and 2009, rising from 5% to 10%. This has hit California’s single mothers the hardest. They were twice as likely as their married counterparts to be unemployed in 2009, and they were more likely to be underemployed.

This recession is taking a serious toll on the earnings of working women and, consequently, the purchasing power of working families. The number of California’s married-couple families with children relying solely on the earnings of wives increased by 77.7 % between 2006 and 2009. Families supported by two working parents fell from 55.1% to 49.7%. The strains on families are exacerbated by this trend since women have yet to achieve economic parity with men. The typical woman earns only 89.1 cents for every dollar earned by a typical working man.

For the past 30 years, family earnings have kept reasonably steady but only because wives and mothers entered the work force in huge numbers. During the past 3 decades, families have required the income of 2 working adults in order to just maintain earning power. Without the earnings of married women, middle-income married-couple families would have lost ground economically. The average inflation-adjusted income of these working families would have declined by 2.2% since 1979. Now that these women, who have yet to achieve economic parity with men, have also been affected by layoffs, underemployment and pay reductions, California’s working families can expect to lose more ground economically.

Working women have provided the economic stability so necessary to California’s families. In the face of this recession, as we proceed with crafting the state budget, we must be mindful of the cuts that will be especially harmful to California’s women and our working families. As reported on this blog, the governor’s proposals are especially lethal. We need more compassionate alternatives.