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Authors’ note: CAP uses “Black” and “African American” interchangeably throughout many of our products. We chose to capitalize “Black” in order to reflect that we are discussing a group of people and to be consistent with the capitalization of “African American.”
In 2014, Minnesota expanded economic opportunity and strengthened workplace protections for women through the Women’s Economic Security Act. Policymakers should continue the momentum by prioritizing policies that ensure economic security, prosperity, and reproductive health care access for women and their families.
Women need policies that reflect their roles as providers and caregivers. In Minnesota, mothers are the sole, primary, or co-breadwinners in 71 percent of families,1 and these numbers are higher for some women of color. The following policy recommendations can help support the economic security of women and families in Minnesota.
Promote equal pay for equal work
Although federal law prohibits unequal pay for equal work, there is more that can be done to ensure that both women and men across Minnesota enjoy the fullest protections against discrimination.
- Minnesota women who are full-time, year-round workers earned about 82 cents for every dollar that Minnesota men earned in 2017;2 if the wage gap continues to close at its current rate, women will not reach parity in the state until 2053.3 The wage gap is even larger for Black women and Latinas in Minnesota, who earned 60.4 cents and 52.8 cents, respectively, for every dollar that white men earned in 2017.4
- Due to the gender wage gap, each woman in Minnesota will lose an average of $400,560 over the course of her lifetime.5
Increase the minimum wage
Women constitute a disproportionate share of low-wage workers; raising the minimum wage would help hardworking women across Minnesota and enable them to better support their families.
- Women make up nearly two-thirds of all minimum wage workers in the United States.6 About three-quarters of all minimum wage workers in Minnesota are women.7
- In Minnesota, the current minimum wage is $9.65 per hour.8 Almost 72 percent of tipped wage workers in Minnesota are women.9
- Increasing the minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2024 would boost wages for 403,000 women in Minnesota and more than 23 million women nationally. Fifty-seven percent of Minnesota workers who would be affected by raising the minimum wage to $15 are women.10
Guarantee access to quality health care
Women need access to comprehensive health services—including abortion and maternity care—in order to thrive as breadwinners, caregivers, and employees. To ensure women are able to access high-quality care, states should, at minimum, strengthen family planning programs such as Title X; protect Medicaid; and end onerous restrictions that reduce access to abortion care and undermine the patient-provider relationship. At the state level, Minnesota should ensure that women have access to the full spectrum of quality, affordable, and women-centered reproductive health services.
- In 2014, almost 295,000 women in Minnesota were in need of publicly funded family planning services and supplies, and 11 percent of those women were uninsured.11
- Title X—the nation’s only federal domestic program focused solely on providing family planning and other related preventive care, such as contraception, sexually transmitted infection testing, and cancer screenings—served about 46,000 women in Minnesota in 2017, down from about 49,000 women in 2014.12 Title X funding has itself increased slightly, from $3.2 million in 2014 to about $3.3 million in 2019.13
- Minnesota has restrictions on abortion care: State-mandated counseling and a 24-hour waiting period are required before the procedure is provided, thus necessitating at least two trips. Moreover, parental notification for young people under the age of 18 is required.14
- Minnesota’s infant mortality rate—4.8 deaths per 1,000 live births—is lower than the national rate of 5.8 deaths per 1,000 live births.15
Ensure workers have access to paid sick days
Everyone gets sick, but not everyone is afforded the time to get better. Many women go to work sick, because they fear that they will be fired for missing work. Allowing employees to earn paid sick days helps keep families, communities, and the economy healthy.
- More than 34 million U.S. employees, or 29 percent of the nation’s private sector workforce, do not have access to paid sick days.16
- In Minnesota, the rate is even higher: 43.3 percent of private sector workers, or 947,077 people, do not receive paid sick days.17
- Minneapolis and St. Paul passed paid sick days laws that went into effect in July 2017 and provided access to approximately 130,300 workers who were formerly without paid sick days. In May 2018, Duluth became the third city in Minnesota to pass a sick paid day law, which will provide 19,000 additional workers with access to paid sick days starting in January 2020.18
Ensure fair scheduling practices
Many low-wage and part-time workers—approximately 60 percent of whom are women19—face erratic work schedules and have little control over when they work and for how long.
- More than 1 in 4 low-wage U.S. workers has a schedule that is nonstandard—that is, outside of the traditional 9-to-5 workweek.20 This can be especially difficult for parents who need to plan for child care.
- In addition to threatening the economic security of these workers and their families, unfair scheduling practices are often accompanied by reduced access to health benefits and increased potential for sexual harassment.21
Provide access to paid family and medical leave
Access to paid family and medical leave would allow workers to be with their newborn children during the critical early stages of the child’s life; to care for an aging family member; to recover from their own serious illness; or to assist in a loved one’s recovery from a serious illness or injury.
- Only 17 percent of civilian workers in the United States have access to paid family leave through their employers.22
- In 2019, a paid family and medical leave bill has gained momentum in the Minnesota Legislature and has the support of newly elected Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz (D).23
- Unpaid leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is inaccessible to 59 percent of working people in Minnesota.24 Workers and families in the state need paid family and medical leave for reasons other than childbirth. For example, nearly 1 in 4 workers in Minnesota is at least 55 years old, and in less than 15 years, the state’s population that is 65 and older will grow by nearly 40 percent.25 Minnesota’s aging population means an increase in older adults with serious medical conditions who will need additional care.
- National data show that 55 percent of employees who take unpaid leave through the FMLA use it for personal medical reasons. Twenty-one percent of workers use leave for the birth or adoption of a child, while another 18 percent use it to care for a family member.26
Expand quality, affordable child care
Families need child care to ensure they are able to work, but many lack access to affordable, high-quality child care options that support young children’s development and meet the needs of working families.
- Seventy-five percent of Minnesota children younger than age 6 have all available parents in the workforce, which makes access to affordable, high-quality child care a necessity.27
- For a Minnesota family with one infant and one 4-year-old, the annual price of a child care center averages $27,664 per year,28 or about 30 percent of the median income for a Minnesota family with children.29
- Minnesota lags far behind the national average in children enrolled in public preschool, with about 16 percent of 4-year-olds enrolled.30
Protect workers against all forms of gender-based violence
Women cannot fully participate in the economy if they face the threat of violence and harassment. There are a number of steps lawmakers can take to prevent violence against women and to support survivors, including establishing greater workplace accountability; strengthening enforcement; increasing funding for survivor support services; and educating the public on sexual harassment in the workplace.31
- In Minnesota, 42.5 percent of women have experienced contact sexual violence in their lifetimes, and 32 percent of women have experienced noncontact sexual harassment.32 Given that research at the national level suggests that as many as 70 percent of sexual harassment charges go unreported, these state numbers likely only scratch the surface.33
- About 34 percent of Minnesota women have experienced intimate partner violence, which can include physical violence, sexual violence, or stalking by an intimate partner.34 Experiencing intimate partner violence has been shown to hinder women’s economic potential in many ways, including loss of pay from missed days of work and housing instability.35
Protecting the rights of incarcerated women
The growing problem of mass incarceration in the United States hinders the economic potential of those affected and disproportionately harms communities of color.36 Incarceration can have a particularly destabilizing effect on families with an incarcerated mother, especially if that woman is a breadwinner. The experience of incarceration is also uniquely traumatic for women in ways that can deter long-term economic security, even after release.37
- The incarceration rate in Minnesota is 191 per 100,000 people.38 Approximately 6.9 percent of prisoners in Minnesota are women.39
- Women are the fastest-growing segment of the overall U.S. prison population, but there are fewer federal prisons for women than there are for men, contributing to overcrowding and hostile conditions for incarcerated women.40
- Incarcerated women suffer from a wide range of abuses at the hands of the prison system, including lack of access to menstrual hygiene products; lack of adequate nutrition and prenatal care; shackling during pregnancy and childbirth; and separation and further disruption from children for whom they are primary caregivers.41
Promote women’s political leadership
Across the United States, women are underrepresented in political office: They constitute 51 percent of the population but only 29 percent of elected officials.42
- Women make up 50 percent of Minnesota’s population but only 22 percent of its elected officials.43
- Women of color constitute 9 percent of the state’s population but only 1 percent of its officeholders.44
- Minnesota’s Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan (D) is the highest-ranking Native American women elected to executive office in U.S. history.45
Diana Boesch is a research associate for women’s economic security for the Women’s Initiative at the Center for American Progress. Rachel Kershaw is a former intern for the Women’s Initiative at the Center. Osub Ahmed is a senior policy analyst for women’s health and rights with the Women’s Initiative at the Center.