Women are Breadwinners in Two-Thirds of Families, But Without the Policies to Match

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Mothers are now the breadwinners or co-breadwinners in two-thirds of American families. But you'd never guess it by looking at our policies. Women still make 77 cents on the dollar compared to men, the U.S. is the only country in the developed world that still doesn't offer national paid family and medical leave and 88 percent of health insurance plans to do not cover maternity care.

In 1967, only about one-fourth of American families had mothers are breadwinners or co-breadwinners, and they were mostly co-breadwinners (11.6 percent co-breadwinners and 15.9 percent breadwinners). Now there are close to twice as many sole breadwinners as co-breadwinners (41 percent and 22.5 percent, respectively). That means not only are four times as many mothers contributing to household income, but there are also four times as many who are the only contributors.

And yet, women make up the bulk of low-wage earners: over sixty percent of minimum wage workers are women. Less than one-third of women without college degrees get any form of paid maternity leave. And women are far less likely than men to have access to any form of paid leave at all (maternity or otherwise) or workplace flexibility.

A new report from the Center for American Progress lists twelve policies that promote economic security for women and their families and actually reflect their increased role in the workplace. They include:

  • Paid family and medical leave insurance
  • Rehiring teachers and public-sector workers laid off in the recession and the sequester
  • Ensure that women who want to join unions can do so
  • Paid sick days for all workers
  • Provide universal childcare and pre-kindergarten
  • Fully implement the Affordable Care Act and expand Medicaid in the states
  • Increase workplace flexibility and predictable scheduling
  • Raise the minimum wage
  • Improve and enforce antidiscrimination laws
  • Ensure access to family planning services
  • Strengthen Social Security and retirement plans

A lot of these would benefit men too – because they're not just about helping women, but about being fair. It's time for policy to catch up with reality.  

About Author

Emily Cadik

Emily is a Texas ex-pat and proud Longhorn living in Washington, DC, where she remains connected to the Lone Star State through her work on BOR and her enthusiasm for breakfast tacos. She works on affordable housing policy, and writes about health care, poverty and other social justice issues.

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