Center for American Progress

RELEASE: Analysis Finds Pennsylvania Women Are Breadwinners in Nearly Two-Thirds of Households, Have Helped Slow Growth of Income Inequality in State
Press Release

RELEASE: Analysis Finds Pennsylvania Women Are Breadwinners in Nearly Two-Thirds of Households, Have Helped Slow Growth of Income Inequality in State

Washington, D.C. — A new analysis released today by the Center for American Progress reveals that Pennsylvania mothers are the primary or co-breadwinners in nearly two-thirds—or 65.3 percent—of Pennsylvania families. The analysis also finds that, if not for the rise in women’s earnings and increased labor force participation between 1963 and 2013, income inequality among the bottom 95 percent of Pennsylvania married couples would have grown roughly 36 percent faster during that period. In other words, the rise in women’s earnings has been a strong countervailing force on the growth of income inequality in the Keystone State over the past 50 years.

However, despite the critical role Pennsylvania women play in the economic security of their families and the state’s economy, many Pennsylvania women face unique challenges at work and at home that can undermine their ability to thrive in the workforce and provide for their families.

In Pennsylvania and across the United States, many workers lack access to common-sense work-family policies such as paid sick days and paid family medical leave—putting a singular burden on women, who still bear the lion’s share of responsibility for unpaid work at home. Furthermore, despite their role as family breadwinners, Pennsylvania women continue to earn just 79.2 cents for every dollar that Pennsylvania men earn. The wage gap is even larger for black women and Latinas in Pennsylvania, who earn 68.2 cents and 55.9 cents for every dollar that white men earn, respectively.

Meanwhile, many Pennsylvania families lack access to affordable high-quality child care options. Sixty-eight percent of Pennsylvania children younger than age 6 have all available parents in the workforce, which makes access to affordable, high-quality child care a necessity. However, for a Pennsylvania family with one infant and one 4-year-old, child care costs an average of $21,106 per year—more than one-third of the median income for a Pennsylvania family with children.

“Like many women throughout the United States, far too many Pennsylvania women encounter obstacles that make it extremely difficult for them to thrive in the workplace while also caring for their families,” said Sarah Jane Glynn, Director of Women’s Economic Policy at the Center for American Progress. “Although cities like Philadelphia and Pittsburgh have begun to move the ball forward on crucial work-family policies such as paid sick days, many workers throughout the state are still left behind. Workers shouldn’t have to rely on winning the boss lottery or living in the right ZIP code to have access to common-sense work-family policies.”

As CAP’s analysis demonstrates, the right policies can go a long way toward helping all Pennsylvania women gain economic security. In order to promote women’s economic security, Pennsylvania’s policies should address the needs of working mothers and reflect the roles that women are playing to provide for their families.

Expanding access to paid sick days; providing paid family and medical leave; ensuring equal pay; expanding quality, affordable child care; increasing the minimum wage; guaranteeing access to quality health care; and promoting women’s political leadership are all areas in which policymakers and advocates can help women bolster their families’ economic security.

Read the fact sheet: Fast Facts: Economic Security for Pennsylvania Families by Ryan Erickson and Danielle Corley

For more information or to speak to an expert, contact Chelsea Kiene at or 202.478.5328.