For a more recent version of this fact sheet, see: “State Fact Sheets: Economic Security for Women and Families” by the Women’s Initiative
In South Carolina and across the United States, policies that promote economic security for women are vital to the stability, sustainability, and overall well-being of families. Working families need higher livable wages, women need and deserve equal pay for equal work, and parents need to be able to maintain good jobs that allow them to work and raise their children simultaneously. These economic priorities are important because women play an increasingly pivotal role in the economic success of their families. Women of color, in particular, are disproportionately more likely to live in lower-income families that need their financial support to make ends meet. Strong economic security policies will enable all South Carolina women and families to get ahead—not just get by.
For most South Carolinians, the days of the stay-at-home mom are history:
and co-breadwinners in another 24 percent. This is not surprising since most women in the state work—nearly 7 in 10, or 68.4 percent, of South Carolina women are in the labor force. Significantly, if women had not increased their labor force participation between 1963 and 2013, inequality in the state would be 12 percent higher today. Women’s importance to the economic stability of families cuts across all racial and ethnic groups in South Carolina. For example, more than half—57 percent—of African American-led households with children younger than age 18 are headed solely by African American women. To promote women’s economic security, South Carolina’s policies should address the needs of working mothers and reflect the roles that women are playing to provide for their families. Here are seven areas in which policymakers and advocates can help women bolster their families’ economic security.
Provide access to paid sick days
Everyone gets sick, but not everyone is afforded the time to get better. Many women go to work sick or leave their sick children at home alone 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.
- Thirty-nine percent of the nation’s private-sector workforce does not have access to paid sick days. In South Carolina, the rate is even higher: 47 percent of private-sector workers, or nearly 720,000 people, do not have paid sick days.
- If employees must stay home from work because they or their children are ill, the loss of pay can take a serious toll—particularly on low-income workers, who are the least likely to have access to paid sick leave.
Expand paid family and medical leave
Access to paid family and medical leave would allow workers to be with their newborn children during the crucial first stages of a child’s life, to care for an aging parent or spouse, or to recover from their own illness.
- The United States is the only developed country that does not guarantee access to paid maternity leave and one of only three developed countries that do not offer broader family and medical leave insurance. Only 12 percent of workers in the United States have access to paid family leave through their employers.
South Carolina does not significantly expand upon federal rights or protections guaranteed by federal law for state employees or private-sector workers.
Ensure equal pay
Although federal law prohibits unequal pay for equal work, there is more to do to ensure that both women and men enjoy the fullest protections against discrimination across South Carolina.
- Women are the primary, sole, or co-breadwinners in nearly two-thirds of U.S. families but continue to earn less than their male counterparts. Latinas and African American women experience the sharpest pay disparities.
- South Carolina women earn just 80 cents for every dollar that South Carolina men earn. The wage gap is even larger for black women and Latinas in South Carolina, who respectively earn 58 cents and 51 cents for every dollar that white men earn.
Expand quality, affordable child care
Families need child care to be able to work, but many families lack access to high-quality child care options. Parents want and need child care that supports young children’s development and adequately prepares them for school.
- Sixty-seven percent of South Carolina children younger than age 6 have all available parents in the workforce, which makes access to affordable, high-quality child care a necessity.
- For a South Carolina family with one infant and one 4-year-old,
- Under the Center for American Progress’ High Quality Child Care Tax Credit, families in South Carolina would, on average, save $3,172 annually compared with current child care costs. CAP’s proposal would also create a financial incentive for child care providers to improve their quality, therefore expanding access to high-quality child care programs for South Carolinians.
Increase the minimum wage
Women make up a disproportionate share of low-wage workers, and raising the minimum wage would help hardworking women across South Carolina better support their families.
- Women make up nearly two-thirds of all minimum wage workers in the United States.
- Increasing the minimum wage to $12 per hour would boost wages for 344,000 women in South Carolina and nearly 20 million women nationally. Almost 58 percent of the workers in South Carolina who would be affected by raising the minimum wage to $12 are women.
Guarantee access to quality health care
Women need comprehensive reproductive health services—including access to abortion care—in order to thrive as breadwinners, caregivers, and employees.
- In 2013, 319,860 South Carolina women were in need of publicly supported family planning services and supplies.
- Because federal Title X funding—which covers contraception, pregnancy testing, and cancer screenings—has not kept up with inflation and often faces the threat of cuts at the federal level,South Carolina should step in and ensure that women have access to quality family planning resources.
Promote women’s political leadership
Across the United States, women are dramatically underrepresented in political office: They make up 51 percent of the population but only 29 percent of elected officials.
- Women make up 52 percent of South Carolina’s population but only 24 percent of its elected officials.
- Women of color make up 19 percent of the state’s population but only 7 percent of its officeholders.
Ryan Erickson is the Associate Director of Economic Campaigns at the Center American Progress. Sarah Jane Glynn is the Director of Women’s Economic Policy at the Center. Heidi Williamson is the Senior Policy Analyst for the Women’s Health and Rights Program at the Center.