IWPR and NDWA Release First Status of Black Women in the United States Report

In June 2017, IWPR, in collaboration with the National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA), released The Status of Black Women in the United States to shine a spotlight on the myriad ways that Black women contribute to their families, communities, and the nation. Despite these contributions, the data show that Black women continue to face systemic barriers that prevent them from experiencing the full benefits of their work in strengthening the nation’s political system and economy.


Black women have a long history of political activism and vote at comparatively high rates (in 2008 and 2012, Black women voted at a higher rate than women from the other largest racial and ethnic groups), yet factors such as restrictive voter identification laws and the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act make it harder for poor and minority citizens to vote, effectively disenfranchising some Black women. In addition, Black women remain underrepresented in elected office at the state and federal levels. Black women compose about six percent of the United States population, but as of August 2016 held only 3.4 percent of seats in the United States Congress and no seats in the U.S. Senate; in state legislatures, Black women held just 3.5 percent of seats.


Of all women from the largest racial and ethnic groups, Black women and multiracial women have the highest labor force participation rates (each at 62.2 percent), yet Black women’s high labor force participation rate has not translated into livable wages for many. Black women have some of the lowest earnings of all groups of women—nationally, Black women’s median earnings for full-time, year-round work are $34,000, compared with $40,000 for White women and $52,000 for White men. Black women in Louisiana and Mississippi have the lowest earnings—$25,000 in both states—and face the widest wage gaps, making 46.3 percent and 55.6 percent, respectively, of what White men earn in each state. Data show, however, that Black women who belong to a labor union earn 32.2 percent more than non-unionized Black women.


The Status of Black Women in the United States highlights Black women’s ongoing efforts to increase economic security for themselves and their families. In 2014, more than one in five Black women had at least a bachelor’s degree (21.8 percent) and between 2004 and 2014, the share of Black women with a bachelor’s degree or higher increased by 24 percent. The number of businesses owned by black women grew by 178.1 percent between 2002 and 2012, the largest increase among women or men from any of the largest racial and ethnic groups. Black women are 12.7 percent of all women in the country but, as of 2012, Black women owned 15.4 percent of all women-owned businesses and 60 percent of all black-owned business.


Despite Black women having a higher voting rate than all other groups of men and women during the last two presidential elections (2008 and 2012), almost one in four (24.5 percent) live in poverty, many lack health insurance coverage—seven of the ten states where Black women make up the largest share of the population have not expanded Medicaid—and Black women are twice as likely as White women to be incarcerated. The criminalization of Black girls often begins early in primary and secondary schools where they disproportionately face expulsions, suspensions, and referrals to law enforcement, often for minor offenses including dress code violations and “defiance.”


As Black women continue to pursue economic security for their families, policymakers and communities should work to ensure that their needs are addressed as they move forward. The report concludes with policy recommendations, including increasing access to affordable, high quality child care, raising the minimum wage, improving access to collective bargaining, adopting the Medicaid expansion in every state, and closing the gender wage gap. These policies will not only improve the well-being of Black women and their families, but of all women and the country as a whole.


It’s been a busy summer for the Institute for Women’s Policy Research! In partnership with the National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA), we released our first ever report on The Status of Black Women in the United States, which sheds light on the unique experiences of Black women in America. The report represents one of the most comprehensive reports on Black women in every state, building on IWPR’s Status of Women in the States series (see pages 1 & 4 for more details about the report). Findings from the report were highlighted in the Atlantic, the Washington Post, Essence, and New York Magazine, among others.


The report was launched at our day-long conference, “Persistence to Power: Facts, Truth, & Equity for Women: A Research Forum for Change Makers” on June 7 as part of a panel with eight Black women leaders from various backgrounds. Alicia Garza, NDWA and co-founder of the Black Lives Matter movement, moderated the panel. I was proud to be one of the co-conveners of the conference, along with our partners Beverly Guy-Sheftall from the Women’s Resource and Research Center at Spelman College and Layli Maparyan from the Wellesley Centers for Women at Wellesley College. The conference provided important insights to help us understand what happened in Charlottesville and tools to resist racism and bigotry in all its forms.


The conference also featured our board chair, Lorretta Johnson, American Federation of Teachers Secretary-Treasurer, providing welcoming remarks and Senator Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire as the morning keynoter and Commissioner Charlotte A. Burrows from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission as the midday keynoter. Several additional panels covered important issues relevant to the new administration, including the intersection of race, religion, and immigration in civic engagement; health, gender violence, and Title IX; and achieving paid leave through public policy. Photos from the event are featured on pages 4 & 5. Along with NDWA and Caring Across Generations, and with support from the MacArthur Foundation, in late July we hosted a convening of policy experts and researchers on Universal Family Care, a proposed program to make care work and caregiving easier for working families in the United States. At the workshop, we received useful feedback on topics ranging from the structure and financing of such a program to its politics and administration. The conversation at the workshop, as well as the discussions since, have helped all of us involved in putting on the workshop refine this idea and chart the path forward. At the workshop IWPR released a pre-publication draft report, The Shifting Supply and Demand of Care Work: The Growing Role of People of Color and Immigrants. The report analyzes changing demographics and trends in earnings for two occupational groups, childcare and adult care workers. One of the key findings is that the care workforce—while still largely female, white, and US-born—is increasingly made up of men, women of color, and foreign-born individuals. Leaders of the businesses that provide care-giving have joined many other business leaders in pointing out that the administration’s announcement that it will terminate the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program will not only deprive their industries of needed workers but will tear families apart and undermine the rights of due process and the sense of fairness that helps to keep a diverse society whole and vibrant. It is more important than ever that we learn about the experiences of immigrants and their contributions to our nation.


IWPR is here to help you cope with the growing domestic and global challenges facing us as well as help you with your efforts to combat harmful public policies. We will continue to provide rigorous research and analysis to keep you informed and inspired. IWPR remains steadfast in fighting for the importance of facts in a fact-challenged era.


IWPR Breaks New Ground on Women in Patenting and Innovation

Following the release of IWPR’s recent report, Equity in Innovation: Women Inventors and Patents, IWPR, with funding from Qualcomm, Inc., convened a full-day workshop on May 17th, which gathered nearly 40 experts in the field of patenting and innovation. Participants included researchers studying diversity in innovation, university technology transfer officers, and representatives from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). Throughout the day, participants shared knowledge of the current state of research on diversity in patenting, developed an agenda for future research, and identified policies and programs to promote greater diversity in patenting and innovation.


The dialogue at the workshop, in addition to IWPR’s earlier report, highlighted how little is actually known about women— and particularly women of color—in patenting and innovation, largely because the USPTO does not collect inventors’ demographic information. Neither USPTO nor other government agencies survey scientists and other inventors about what barriers may prevent them from participating in the patenting process. IWPR hopes to use the knowledge and connections gained at the workshop to develop further expertise on women inventors and the challenges they face to develop additional research projects.


IWPR’s Analysis Finds Millions of Children Would Be Lifted out of Poverty if their Mothers Had Equal Pay

In advance of Equal Pay Day 2017 in April, IWPR released a new analysis, “The Impact of Equal Pay on Poverty and the Economy,” prepared in collaboration with LeanIn.Org for their #20PercentCounts public awareness campaign on the gender pay gap. The analysis found that closing the wage gap would add $513 billion in wage and salary income to the U.S. economy, cut the poverty rate among working women in half, and lift 2.5 million children out of poverty.


Women are the sole or co-breadwinner in half of American families with young children. If women were paid the same as comparable men—men who work the same number of hours, are the same age, have the same level of education, and live in the same region of the country with the same urban/rural status—women would have earned an average of $6,870 more in a single year.


Nearly 60 percent of women would earn more if working women were paid the same as comparable men and nearly two-thirds (65.9 percent) of working single mothers would receive a pay increase. The poverty rate for all working women would be cut in half, falling from 8.0 percent to 3.8 percent. For working single mothers, the poverty rate would drop from 28.9 percent to 14.5 percent. Approximately 25.8 million children would benefit from the increased earnings of their mothers if they received equal pay and 2.5 million would be lifted out of poverty.


Through the partnership with LeanIn.org’s #20PercentCounts campaign, IWPR’s research received the Hollywood touch, with celebrities such as Jane Lynch (from Glee fame) and Blake Lively sharing IWPR’s analysis on Instagram.