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Economic Issues in Texas Report Panelists for the Dallas Women’s Foundation’s Economic Issues for Women in Texas Briefing and Panel Discussion were, from left: Terry Conner, past chairman of the Dallas After School Network; Roslyn Dawson Thompson, president and CEO of Dallas Women’s Foundation; Carine M. Feyten, chancellor and president of Texas Woman’s University; and Karen Petty, professor and chair of the TWU Department of Family Sciences.

Although women in Texas have made great strides over the last decades, there is still more that can be done to close the gaps and ensure they reach their full potential, particularly with low-income women. That’s what was reported when Dallas Women’s Foundation (DWF) unveiled findings from its Economic Issues for Women in Texas 2017 report, which highlights the four critical building blocks necessary for women to achieve economic security – education, child care, health insurance and housing. The report examines the economic status of Texas women through a lens of gender, race and ethnicity; looks at policies and practices at the state level; and identifies areas of opportunity where innovation and investment can help women and their families move from surviving to thriving.

 

In separate events in Dallas and Houston hosted at Texas Woman’s University (TWU) campuses, DWF President and CEO Roslyn Dawson Thompson and TWU Chancellor Carine Feyten led panel discussions of the jointly sponsored new research, and discussed steps that can be taken to address the economic challenges outlined in the report. 

 

Thompson said, “Of the 14 million females in Texas, 17 percent live in poverty, compared to 14 percent of men and boys. Our goal is that this study will lay out the challenges, solutions and what we’ve accomplished so far in education, child care, health insurance and housing, so that community leaders, officials, nonprofit organizations, businesses and donors will work together to improve economic security for Texas women.”

 

She added, “When women are financially secure, families and communities are strong and stable. When women are healthy and well-educated, their strength creates a positive ripple effect for their families and communities. Investing in women makes for a stronger Texas economy.”

 

Each building block focuses on the most significant key findings and recommendations, but the full report details each area in depth.

 

Education: A Pathway to Economic Security

Education is a pathway to economic security, yet financial insecurity creates challenges that make it less likely for low-income female students to complete a higher education degree or credential.

Some key findings:

  • Hispanic women (25 percent) and Black women (34 percent) have much lower rates of higher education attainment than White (55 percent) or Asian (75 percent) women. 
  • Texas women earn more with every step up in their education. The median earnings of women with a bachelor’s degree are $17,000 higher than women with some college or an associate’s degree. However, women with a bachelor’s still earn $20,000 less than Texas men with a bachelor’s degree.
  • A third of jobs are “middle-skill,” requiring some postsecondary training, such as a certificate or industry credential, but not necessarily a bachelors’ degree.  Twenty-two percent of Texas women have some college education, but no degree.

Some key recommendations:

  • Dual enrollment courses in high school, so students can also earn college credit.
  • Help women get training for middle-skill jobs where they will earn more than minimum wage.

 

Child Care: A Critical Work Support for Families

The average yearly cost of full-time child care in Texas is between $7,000 to $9,000—nearly the average annual cost of college in Texas. Access to child care helps women improve their employment, wages, job stability and advancement opportunities.

Some key findings:

  • 62 percent of Texas moms are in the paid labor force.
  • The majority of Texas children are part of families where both parents work outside the home, or one parent if in a single-parent family. This describes 59 percent (1.3 million) of children under age 6, and 62 percent (1.7 million) of children ages 6 to 12.
  • Fewer than 10 percent of eligible children receive child-care subsidies.

Some key recommendations:

  • State legislators can build off of existing Pre-K programs and provide additional funding to support full-day programs.
  • Texas can increase the amount of funding available to subsidize child-care costs for those who qualify.
  • Employers can institute family-friendly policies and work options, such as paid family leave, dependent care reimbursement accounts, flex time, telecommuting and greater employee choice in managing work hours.

 

Health Insurance: A Financial Shield for the Unexpected

Health insurance is a financial shield against the unexpected, yet 16 percent (2.2 million) women and girls in Texas do not have health insurance.

Some key findings:

  • In Texas, 2.2 million women and girls (16 percent) are effectively left out of the health care system because they do not have health insurance, which puts their health and their family’s financial security at risk. 
  • From 2013 to 2015, the female uninsured rate in Texas decreased by five percentage points, from 21 to 16 percent. The male uninsured rate also decreased by five percentage points in Texas, from 23 to 18 percent. 

Some key recommendations:

  • State legislators can craft a health insurance option that closes the Coverage Gap for low-income adult women.
  • Businesses and state legislators can make paid sick leave an earned benefit that is available to more working women. 

 

Housing: The Anchor of Economic Security

For most women, housing represents the single largest cost in their budgets. When women have access to affordable housing for their families, they have more resources for investment in education, child care and health insurance, but that is not the case in the state.

Some key findings:

  • The first is a situation called housing cost burdened, which disproportionately impacts single women and women of color. The rule of thumb for housing costs being too high is when a household spends 30 percent or more of its income on housing. About 45 percent of all female headed families are housing cost burdened compared to 31 percent of male headed families.
  • Women are at higher risk for eviction than men.

Some key recommendations:

  • State legislators can allow cities to pass local ordinances that protect low-income renters who use vouchers – the vast majority of whom are women – from housing discrimination.
  • Local governments should invest in legal services for women and families facing eviction.

 

About the Economic Issues for Women in Texas

The study was produced by Dallas Women’s Foundation, authored by Center for Public Policy Priorities and supported by Texas Woman’s University. Sources include U.S. Census Bureau data, federal and state agency data and academic research.

To see the full report and findings for each building block, visit https://www.dallaswomensfdn.org/economicissues

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