Women Working U.S. out of the Recession

By Jami Laubich, Communications Intern

On Jan. 21, Women’s Policy Inc. held a briefing about the impact of women on the recession. Speaker Rebecca M. Blank, the Under Secretary for Economic Affairs in the U.S. Department of Justice, explained that the United States has been in the worst recession since World War II, and that future generations may refer to this time as a depression.

Women are responsible for helping get us out of this recession. A recent PEW study suggests that 22 percent of heterosexual married couples have wives earning more then their husbands. Women are now more likely than ever before to be the bread winner and contribute a higher share of income to their families. It should be no surprise then that women now constitute almost 50 percent of all workers.

Women have been more likely to stay employed during the recession then men. According to current population surveys, jobs more often held by men in construction and manufacturing have decreased by 39 percent since 2007. Meanwhile, jobs in health services where women are employed at a higher rate have actually increased by 4.5 percent.

Recessions impact more then just family pocketbooks. Income correlates with power in household and effects decision making. As Blank pointed out, domestic abuse is not a low-income issue. However, domestic abuse is higher during a recession, especially when men are unemployed. Choices surrounding family are highly affected during depressions, for example fertility often decreases as families choose not to have children based on financial concerns. Marriage and divorce both cost money, and therefore decrease during economic lulls while cohabitation rates go up. Multi-generational homes become more common as unemployed college graduates move back home.

At the briefing Blank said the stimulus package, which was greatly influenced by groups like NOW, has had very noticeable effects on the labor market. If it weren’t for the efforts of NOW and other women’s rights advocates, billions of dollars would have gone primarily into “shovel ready” projects, meaning financial support would have been funneled to construction jobs where women only make up less than 15 percent of the industry. NOW’s goal in helping shape the stimulus package was to encourage investment in efforts and projects that would put women back to work and jump-start the economy. Through the stimulus package, U.S. families will continue to be positively effected thanks to NOW’s lobbying efforts. Blank explained that the stimulus package had expanded food stamps and increased assistance with health care extensions for the unemployed. With a nod to the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and a quick remark about health care being a woman’s issue, Blank culminated her speech by claiming she was cautiously optimistic about the future. But positive results depend on the continued advocacy of feminists like you and me.

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