Only Up From Here, Right?

Last week, I had the pleasure of attending via conference call (thank you, Google Phone), the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) Roundtable on Women & the Economy. The purpose of the Roundtable was to formally present two very significant research studies put together by the IWPR and the Rockefeller Foundation, Women and Men Living on the Edge: Economic Insecurity After the Great Recession and Retirement on the Edge: Economic Insecurity After the Great Recession. The two studies provide a number of qualified statistics about Americans’ perceptions about their economic security following what is dubbed the “Great Recession,” that occurred in the United States during 2007 and 2009. 2,746 adults among the ages of eighteen and older participated in the survey, which was administered between September and November of 2010.

The findings of the IWPR/Rockefeller Survey of Economic Security are quite astounding, but mostly in the sense that I am astounded by how negatively the Recession is impacting the lives of many Americans.  Generally, most Americans feel less confident about their economic security today than they did three years ago. In 2007, 38% of women and 33% of men felt they had little economic security and when asked again in 2010, the numbers skyrocketed to 77% of women and 71% of men.

Considering the news headlines of the past year, I am sure you can assume why most Americans are disheartened. Health care is in shambles, Social Security is a nightmare, the housing market is a mess, and the job market- well, we might just call that a catastrophe. The study is very comprehensive in confronting all of these issues and the responses show that many Americans are making big sacrifices in their quality of life. Americans are having difficulty paying for food (26 million women, 15 million men), health care (46 million women, and 34 million men), rent or mortgage (32 million women, 25 million men) and are not saving or saving much less for retirement (65 million women, 53 million men).

What these numbers also show is that women are having a much harder time than men recovering from the adverse effects of the ’07-’09 recession. It is no wonder that the IWPR/Rockefeller report calls this phase of economic recovery the “Mencession.” The studies tell that while men’s job losses were more than twice as large as women’s, women’s economic vulnerability has increased much more than the men. 61% of male participants indicated that they have enough savings to support themselves for two months, while only 43% of women could say the same. Although most people in our country are suffering, women have the short stick on this one simply because they, generally, make lower earnings and have a greater likelihood of raising children on their own. As a result, the study observes that more women are going hungry (16% of single mothers and 9% of married mothers) and are unable to provide for their children (43% of single moms and 42 % of married moms have not bought something their child has needed). The statistics increase among women in minority groups as well.

The Roundtable did a great job of not only highlighting the research findings of the effects of the Recession, but also shining a light on how many Americans hope to proceed in the future considering these tough times. Many Americans are ill-prepared for retirement, whether they have not saved, stopped saving or are saving very little. Also, many people expect that they will retire by the age of 70 or perhaps never at all. Because “recovery” has yet to reach many Americans, they are relying on government programs such as Social Security and Medicare for the future. With that said, the Roundtable turned to a discussion of what government and our politicians could do (or should do) based on these findings. Pretty obviously, Americans are expecting that our government will handle the economic situation and improve conditions for Americans sooner than later.

After I ended my Google Phone session with the IWPR Roundtable on Women & the Economy, I felt a little disheartened. Actually, very disheartened. I’m a law student racking up some serious debt; I am searching for jobs in a dismal job market; and while I thought the 1960s and Civil Rights helped get females to equal status as their male counterparts, being a young lady in a “mancession,” is not looking too good either. However, what I did take out of the event was that I am not alone. All Americans are suffering in one way or another and we can really benefit from this understanding. Together, we can hope that it’s only up from here.

About this Author: Maria Saab is a law student intern at Workplace Fairness. Her Bachelor of Arts in International Studies combined with her career experiences working on Capitol Hill and with then-Senator Barack Obama’s presidential campaign in 2008 encouraged her to pursue law school. As a hopeful lawyer, she plans on specializing in regulatory law and hopes to one day concentrate her work efforts towards policy development.  This post appeared originally at Workplace Fairness and is cross posted with permission.

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