On Tuesday, March 19, 2013, in partnership with the California Budget Project, we released a report that shows that almost four years since the official end of the Great Recession, California’s women have not shared equally in the state’s emerging recovery.
A Fair Chance: Why California Should Invest in Economic Opportunity for Women and Their Families, notes that employment among the state’s women has declined in the past two years, even as it has increased among men. In addition, the last five years of budget cuts has weakened the services and support that not only tide women and families over during transitional times, but also help them to gain skills and contribute to the workforce.
In addition to a drop in employment for women, during the same time budget cuts have resulted in
- A significant decline – from five years to just two years – in the amount of time a parent can receive CalWORKs cash assistance and participate in the full array of welfare-to-work activities.
- Reductions to the CalWORKs grant, which mean that families now lose cash assistance well before their incomes reach the federal poverty line.
- A decrease by one-third in funding for the childcare budget. This $900 million decrease in annual funding has resulted in a loss of 110,000 childcare slots.
- A steep decline in women’s enrollment in California’s community colleges, which provide education that leads to employment or a four-year degree.
The result is that poverty in California is higher than it’s ever been, with nearly one in four children now living in poverty.
“California needs to do better in fostering opportunities for women, and particularly low-income women, to participate in the economic recovery as it continues to gain momentum,” said Chris Hoene, executive director of the California Budget Project. “State policies can and should play a key role in supporting women’s pathways to good careers and a secure economic future.”
This is a story of lost opportunity – for women, children and the state of California.
The economic stressors associated with poverty have been found to have multifaceted consequences for children’s functioning over their lifetime. According to research by Dr. Ross A. Thompson, at UC Davis Center for Poverty Research, poverty negatively impacts children’s brain development. Poverty slows the development of the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain that controls self-regulation, decision-making and judgment.
Childcare, CalWORKs and higher education play a critical role in keeping families out of poverty, furthering the state’s economic recovery and building tomorrow’s workforce. For example, funding for child care and early education are some of the best investments that can be made toward economic development in both the short and long term. Low-income women who have access to childcare assistance have a greater chance of securing employment, increasing earning potential and becoming financially independent. Their children benefit too. Research shows that young children who receive early childcare by skilled providers develop the linguistic, cognitive, social and emotional building blocks necessary to succeed in school and in life. K-12 public education is vital to California’s future. So is safe, affordable, quality childcare, particularly for children living in poverty.
Historically, families use programs such as CalWORKs cash assistance and CalFresh (food stamps) to help them to stay above the poverty line in times of crisis, however in 2012, the maximum monthly grant for a family of three did not even cover half the average California fair market rent for a two-bedroom. Beacon Economics found that state programs like food stamps and job training provide a boost to the state’s economy, with an estimated $1.32 in economic activity generated for every dollar provided.
“We’ve seen a disturbing pattern of disinvestment in California’s women and families that has led to more families sinking deeper into poverty,” said Judy Patrick, president and CEO of the Women’s Foundation of California. “The thing is it’s not just women and families who pay the price for these disinvestments. We all do. We won’t achieve an innovative and prosperous California unless we invest in women’s economic advancement and healthy, well-educated children.”