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Too Many Working Mothers in Texas Trapped in Low-Wage Jobs


by: Shelby Alexander

Thu Feb 20, 2014 at 09:00 AM CST



Female-headed working families that are low-income in Texas grew from 59 percent in 2007 to 61 percent in 2012, according to a new report released by the Working Poor Families Project in Washington D.C.

The Center for Public Policy Priorities released the Texas-specific information in a press release to highlight the increasing need for opportunities for families to achieve economic security in Texas. The report from the Working Poor Families Project utilizes the latest data from the 2012 Census Bureau's American Community Survey.

"With too many working mothers facing barriers to career advancement, Texas has the opportunity to embrace proven tools to increase education and incomes for working mothers," said Don Baylor, Jr., senior policy analyst at the Center for Public Policy Priorities. "In addition to investing more resources, we should embrace strategies we know are successful, like child care for working parents, and other two-generation approaches to move these families up the economic ladder, which would not only improve the bottom line for these families, but also boost the economic and job activity throughout our state."

Read more about the study's findings on barriers to working mothers and their families, and initiatives that can improve their lives below the jump.

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Nation-wide, female-headed working families make up 39 percent of low-income working families. The proportion is higher with African Americans at 65 percent, Latinos at 31 percent, Asians at 20 percent, those in other racial groups at 45 percent and whites at 36 percent.

The CPPP emphasized that state governments have the authority to help low-income working mothers gain the opportunities they need to provide for themselves and their families. The study cited the many factors which prevent working mothers from upward mobility, such as low wages (emphasizing the need to increase the minimum wage), unequal pay (emphasizing the need for equal pay regardless of race or gender), as well as the lack of paid sick leave and family leave.

The education gap was also highlighted as a major factor driving the growing economic gap between lower-income and higher-income families. The study found that 56 percent of Texas women heading their households did not have any postsecondary education, which is the third highest share of any state. While postsecondary education should not be the sole source for upward mobility, the policy report emphasizes initiatives that could better support working mothers attain an education such as more financial aid and childcare options, as well more schedule options that do not conflict with standard working hours.

"To promote financial independence for more working mothers, Texas must increase investments in need-based financial aid, including options for part-time students and those participating in occupational programs that lead to a credential," said Leslie Helmcamp, policy analyst at the Center for Public Policy Priorities. "Texas can also promote stronger career pathways by combining adult basic education programs with career and technical skills training at community colleges." The report defines "low-income" working families as earning no more than twice the federal poverty income threshold; in 2012, the low-income threshold for a family of three with two children was $36,966.

While the report will not come to a surprise for many who understand the very real and desperate health care and financial security needs for Texans that our current state government has not sufficiently provided, it does set a clear trajectory of policy initiatives well within the grasp of Texas policy makers to provide real solutions for low-income working mothers in our state.



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