Friday, April 11, 2008

BEFORE THE GLASS CEILING: HARD FLOORS

PROGRESS REPORT A report released this week by the Center for American Progress Action Fund and Women's Voices. Women Vote details the difficulties single women face in today's economy. Forty percent make under $30,000 a year, less than married people or single men. Of 12.2 million single-parent households in the United States, more than 10 million are headed by single women.

Single women still suffer unequal pay. They make only 56 cents to the married man's dollar. Overall, women's median wages pay only 77 cents for every dollar men earn. Even after last year's minimum wage raise -- the first in a decade -- an employee working 40 hours a week at minimum wage only earns $15,080, barely above the poverty line for a family of two ($14,000) and under the poverty line for a family of three ($17,600).

Improving access to higher education will also help single women close the wage gap; currently, 84 percent of single mothers do not have a college degree. Just yesterday, the Washington Post reported that nearly 50 student lenders -- 12 percent of the market -- "have stopped issuing federally guaranteed loans in recent weeks because of paralysis in the credit markets," making it harder for single women to afford college.

With over 35 percent of children born to single women in 2005, single women have a large stake in their children's future. The average cost of child care can range anywhere between $3,000 and $13,000 a year per child -- an enormous burden for struggling single women. The United States and Australia are the only industrialized countries that don't require employers to offer paid maternity leave for new mothers, though some states. The housing crisis has a disproportionate effect on single women as well, as they are more likely to be subprime borrowers. They also spend proportionally more on housing than single men. "Unmarried women need a president who will make affordable housing a priority." Finally, "More than a third -- 35 percent -- of unmarried women are over the age of 50 and face retirement on their own rather than with combined savings with a spouse," and older, single women are one of the poorest demographic groups in the United States.

Health coverage is a particularly important issue for women. Four in 10 women have a chronic condition that requires ongoing medical care -- a significantly higher rate of chronic illness than men experience. At the same time, approximately 20 percent of single women have no health coverage at all.

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