Center for American Progress

RELEASE: Iowa Women’s Rising Earnings Have Reduced Inequality in the State
Press Release

RELEASE: Iowa Women’s Rising Earnings Have Reduced Inequality in the State

Washington, D.C. — In Iowa, where mothers are the sole, primary, or co-breadwinners in the majority of families with children, the economic contributions made by working women are of the utmost importance to Iowan families’ economic security. A new analysis released today by the Center for American Progress quantifies how the rising hours and earnings of working women in Iowa also have helped the state’s economy by slowing the growth of income inequality.

The research, conducted by CAP Policy Analyst Brendan V. Duke, found that income inequality in Iowa grew 24 percent from 1963 to 2013. But according to Duke’s analysis, inequality in Iowa would have grown more than 85 percent faster if women’s earnings had not grown during the same period.

“When women are able to stay and thrive in the workforce, both families and the economy as a whole succeed,” said Sarah Jane Glynn, CAP Director of Women’s Economic Policy. “But because of outdated public policies that fail to address the work-family challenges of today’s families, Iowa workers—like many workers across the nation—aren’t able to reach their full potential. Policies such as guaranteed paid family and medical leave and paid sick days are critical tools in combating the blight of income inequality.”

The United States remains the only advanced economy that does not guarantee paid time off for working parents to care for a new child and is one of the only high-income nations that does not guarantee workers paid sick leave. The United States’ unique lack of work-family policies can place a significant burden on working families, including Iowa women and mothers.

Earlier this year, CAP found that mothers are the sole, primary, or co-breadwinners in 71.7 percent of Iowa families. Meanwhile, 45 percent of private-sector workers in Iowa—or more than 500,000 people—do not have access to paid sick days.

Even in the best-case scenarios in which working parents have access to benefits such as paid leave, other problems can arise. For example, child care for an Iowa family with one infant and one 4-year-old can costs an average of $17,089 per year—more than one-quarter of the median income for an Iowa family with children.

To address the work-family issues facing working families today and to support working women, CAP recommends policies that promote equal pay; increase the minimum wage; ensure access to paid sick days and paid family and medical leave; and make high-quality, affordable child care accessible to all families.

Read the issue brief: Women and Families’ Economic Security in Iowa by Sarah Jane Glynn and Brendan V. Duke

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For more information on this topic or to speak with an expert, contact Chelsea Kiene at [email protected] or 202.478.5328.