Monday, February 6, 2017

A Woman’s Work

By Ranada Robinson, Research Manager

On January 25, 2017, our COO Kathy Young and I attended the 2017 Georgia Budget and Policy Institute (GBPI) Policy Conference. GPBI is a nonpartisan think tank that conducts research related to Georgia’s state budget, taxes, and public policies and informs the public about issues that arise. Our CEO J. Mac Holladay is on GBPI’s Board of Directors. 

One of the breakout sessions that I attended during the conference was focused on GBPI’s Economic Opportunity Agenda for Georgia Women, published in August 2016. The report explores the impact of women in the state’s workforce and what policies can support and strengthen that impact. Here are some interesting facts that our readers outside of Georgia probably don’t know:

  • The majority of Georgia’s population is women (51.3 percent in 2015, according to the U.S. Census Bureau).
  • Close to half of the state’s workforce is women (48 percent in 2015).
  • Approximately 56 percent of women and girls live in metro Atlanta, and another 28 percent live in other metro areas in the state.
  • Roughly 53 percent of women and girls in the state are under the age of 40.
  • In over half of all Georgia households with children, women are the primary or co-breadwinners.
  • Since 1970, the share of households with children headed by single mothers has more than doubled to 29 percent. Today, 83 percent of single mothers work.
  • Women in Georgia who work full-time and year-round earn an average of $36,000 annually, compared to $44,000 for their male counterparts.
  • Women are more likely to have attended in college—60 percent of Georgia women had attended at least some college in 2014, compared to 55 percent of Georgia men. This includes the 29.4 percent of women who have earned a Bachelor’s degree or higher, compared to 28.6 percent of men.
  • If all working women in the state earned the same amount of money as their male counterparts all else equal (similar geography type within the state, same age, education level, and working the same number of hours), an added $14.4 billion would be added to the state economy.
  • If women earned the same amount of money as their male counterparts, poverty for working women in Georgia would decrease by nearly half.

The report highlights four specific recommendations that can support the economic mobility of women throughout Georgia:

  • Expanding Medicaid eligibility: Georgia suffers from a health insurance coverage gap that affects more than 300,000 adults in Georgia, including more than 155,000 women. The citizens in this gap have incomes that are too high to qualify for Medicaid under the state’s current eligibility rules but make too little to qualify for financial assistance under the Affordable Care Act. The majority of these citizen are in working families. Lack of health coverage increases the likelihood of poor health outcomes, which negatively impacts the state’s workforce and its competitiveness.
  • Making child care accessible and affordable: Women in Georgia are more likely than men to work part-time because of family care obligations. Home responsibilities is the leading reason cited by women across the nation between the ages of 25 and 54 who are not in the workforce and were 12 times more like than men to cite this as the reason. The average annual cost of center-based child care for an infant in Georgia is $7,644 and for a school-aged child, $3,692. GBPI recommends that Georgia’s child care assistance program be expanded to serve more low-income families.
  • Enacting Georgia Work Credit: The Georgia Work Credit is a state Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). The federal EITC provides a federal tax cut to only people who work and the credit increases as wages increase. It encourages the recipients to stay employed and work more hours. Just under 28 percent of all Georgians received the federal EITC in 2013. A state EITC builds on the federal credit, and GBPI states in the report that the largest value goes to families making between $10,000 and $23,000 per year, but families making up to $52,500 depending on the number of kids in the household can benefit as well. GBPI estimates that this could help up to 900,000 women in Georgia who earn low wages. 
  • Raising the state minimum wage to $10.10 per hour: Georgia is one of only seven states in the nation with a state minimum wage below the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. Raising the minimum wage would help close the gender earnings gap because in Georgia, six in 10 minimum wage earners are women. Raising the minimum wage can add an estimated $342 million to nearly half a million women, who are expected to spend it supporting their families and paying for basic needs. 

The Economic Opportunity Agenda for Georgia Women is a worthwhile and enlightening report. Like Market Street, GBPI truly believes in research-based recommendations, and they have definitely made a clear case for these four measures that could significantly benefit Georgia’s economy.