Informing policy. Inspiring change. Improving lives.
1200 18th Street NW, Suite 301
Washington, DC 20036
202 785-5100

Health & Safety

Health and Safety



Economic Security for Survivors




About Health & Safety

Women have a set of specific concerns when it comes to health. More often than not, women make the majority of health care-related decisions regarding health issues for their families, are the primary caregivers, and spend more than their male counterparts on health (KFF 2009; Agency for 2004). While women, on average, are more likely than men to have health insurance, they are at special risk of a number of specific health conditions, such as depression and exposure to intimate partner violence. Low-income women and women of color are especially likely to experience poor health outcomes, with African American women, in particular, showing much higher rates of HIV/AIDS, heart disease, diabetes, and infants with low birth weight. These realities make consideration of woman-specific issues vitally important to policy decisions in the area of health.

IWPR’s research on women’s health and safety informs policy decisions by identifying gender and racial/ethnic disparities in health outcomes and access to health care services in addition to highlighting opportunities for improvement. IWPR’s reports and resources discuss a range of policy issues including access to paid sick days, the relationship between women’s health and socio-economic status, cost-benefit analyses of paid sick days provision, and rates of breastfeeding.

An IWPR fact sheet reported that 44 million workers in the United States lacked paid sick days in 2010, with 77 percent of food service workers lacking access. Preceding the passage of the first state-wide paid sick days legislation in the United States in Connecticut, IWPR estimated that Connecticut taxpayers would save $4.7 million annually in a cost-benefit analysis of universal paid sick days provision.

Recent reports on policy impacts on breastfeeding rates estimate that the breastfeeding protections in the 2010 Affordable Care Act will increase the national rate of breastfeeding through six months of age by four full percentage points, giving more women and their children the opportunity to draw from the health benefits associated with breastfeeding, such as protection from childhood leukemia, sudden infant death syndrome, and diabetes.


View our external resources page or multimedia page for more information on this topic.

Latest Reports from IWPR

Preview not available

Women of Color and Access to Women's Health Care
by Young-Hee Yoon, Stephanie Aaronson, Heidi Hartmann, Lois Shaw, and Roberta Spalter-Roth (June 1994)

#A116, Briefing paper, 8 pages
Preview not available

Women's Access to Health Insurance (Testimony)
by Heidi Hartmann, Young-Hee Yoon, Stephanie Aaronson, Lois Shaw, Roberta Spalter-Roth (April 1994)

Testimony before the Committee on Finance, U.S. Senate, on the IWPR report Women's Access to Health Insurance. Using data from the Census Bureau's Current Population Survey, the testimony presents factors that affect women's access and lack of access to health insurance and focuses on the characteristics of women who are uninsured.

Preview not available

Women’s Access to Health Insurance: Executive Summary
by (April 1994)

The Institute's study analyzes data from the January and March 1991 Current Population Surveys, monthly surveys conducted by the U.S. Bureau of the Census. The study focuses on adult women of working age, 18 to 64, examines the factors affecting their access to health insurance, and assesses the impact of the proposed Health Security Act on women's health insurance coverage. It compares and contrasts the experiences of women and men whenever relevant.


The Health Benefits and Potential Savings from Screening and Intervention for Domestic Violence
by Stephanie Aaronson and Nicoletta Karam (January 1994)

#B216, Research in Brief, 4 pages
Preview not available

Science and Politics and the "Dual Vision" of Feminist Policy Research: The Example of Family and Medical Leave
by Roberta Spalter-Roth, Ph.D, and Heidi Hartmann, Ph.D (September 1991)

Preview not available

Unnecessary Losses:Costs to Americans for the Lack of Family and Medical Leave
by Roberta Spalter-Roth, Ph.D, and Heidi Hartmann, Ph.D (May 1991)

Unnecessary Losses concludes that the costs to workers and taxpayers of the current lack of national policy are many times greater than the cost to business of having a national policy. Having a national leave policy would reduce the costs to workers and society of the socially necessary tasks of childbirth, child care and eldercare, or of illness, because having the right to return to their jobs would reduce unemployment and earnings losses for workers who must be absent for these reasons.


Unnecessary Losses to African American Workers
by (April 1990)

When a person temporarily leaves their employment because of the arrival of a child, illness of a family member, or her or his own illness, economic costs arise for three groups: workers, employers, and society. Workers in the U.S. lose enormous amounts in earnings from absence due to illness and family care-- an estimated $100 billion annually. Of these losses, at least $12 billion can be attributed to the lack of job protected leave. In addition, there are substantial outlays by taxpayers for unemployment compensation, welfare payments, Supplemental Security Income, etc. when workers do not have the right to return to their jobs-- an estimated $4.3 billion.

Preview not available

Unnecessary Losses: Costs to Americans in the States of the Lack of Family and Medical Leave
by (August 1989)

Despite widespread agreement that employment policies should be responsive to the needs of working families, Congress is currently engaged in debate about a national leave policy that would require minimum protections against job loss because of family and medical needs. The proposed policy would provide protections against job loss if a worker takes a short, unpaid leave for the birth or adoption of a child, the care of a seriously ill child or parent, or the worker's own illness. Although some businesses object the the cost of a national policy, the cost to workers, and to society at large, of not having such a policy is often overlooked.

Preview not available

The Importance of Health Benefits in the Telecommunications Industry
by Roberta Spalter-Roth and Linda Andrews (August 1989)

Preview not available

Costs to Women and Their Families of Childbirth and Lack of Parental Leave
by Roberta Spalter-Roth, Heidi Hartmann (October 1987)

Testimony before the Subcommittee on Children, Families, Drugs and Alcoholism, Committee on Labor and Human Resources, U.S., using figures and charts from IWPR's study Unnecessary Losses: Costs to Americans of the Lack of Family and Medical Leave.

Document Actions
Go to Home Page