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NEW REPORT: Advancing the Economic Security of Unmarried Women

Overview of Laws and Legislation in the 111th Congress

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Contact: Madeline Meth
Phone: 202.741.6277
Email: mmeth@americanprogress.org

Download the full report (pdf)

Download the executive summary (pdf)

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Today the Center for American Progress and Women’s Voices. Women Vote released a new report that will serve as a resource for policymakers and advocates concerned about the economic security of unmarried women. The report’s co-authors, Liz Weiss, economic Policy Analyst at CAP, and Page S. Gardner, the founder of WVWV, examine current legislation under discussion in the Congress, rather than ideal recommendations, and also explore the ample room for improvement in these policy areas.

In America today nearly half of women are unmarried—a transformational societal change from 1960 when only one-third of women were unmarried. And today virtually every woman will spend at least part of her adult life as the sole supporter of herself or her family. With so many women living on their own, it is crucial that lawmakers take seriously unmarried women’s economic security needs.

Unfortunately, the economic circumstances of unmarried women are troubling. They face greater economic insecurity compared to the general population or their married counterparts by almost any measure. They must confront disproportionate unemployment, poverty, and lack of health insurance, as well as other hardships. Despite being just under half of the female population, they represent 63 percent of unemployed women, 60 percent of women without health insurance, and three-quarters of women in poverty.

Each of the new laws and proposed policy changes described in this report has its place in an agenda that improve unmarried women’s economic conditions. Together, this legislation would make significant progress.

Congress doesn’t need to wait to get started on this agenda, either. The top four policy proposals described in this report that are likely to move through Congress quickly and would have a significant impact on the economic security of unmarried women are:

  • The health care system overhaul currently pending in Congress, which would fill a major gap in public policy by greatly expanding the availability and affordability of health insurance.
  • A proposed reauthorization and expansion of the Child Care and Development Block Grant, which provides subsidies for child care to low-income families.
  • The expected reauthorization of the Workforce Investment Act, which Congress can use to focus on the workforce development needs of single women. Bills such as the Pathways Advancing Career Training Act and the Women WIN Jobs Act would target opportunities for job training and good jobs to women.
  • The Paycheck Fairness Act, which the Senate is expected to consider this year and the House passed in January 2009. Women continue to face gender-based pay discrimination, and this bill would strengthen legal protections against wage discrimination.

Unmarried women—and our country—will be helped when public policy recognizes new ways of living, encourages and supports self- and family-sustaining employment, and ensures that all people and all families, regardless of their marital status, can achieve and maintain a good standard of living and a well-balanced life.

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