Press Release Economic Crisis and Recovery Inequality Jobs Poverty United States

Economic Recovery Leaves Behind Working-Class Women and Mothers

May 19, 2022

Contact: KL Conner, 202-281-4159Mail_Outline

Washington — Women’s labor force participation rates are nearly back to pre-pandemic levels, but a new report released today by the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) shows that working-class women and mothers are still lagging behind.

To better understand why this group of women are lagging, Financial Struggles of Working-Class Women Reveal Potential for More Robust Family-Friendly Policy Response, by CEPR economist Julie Cai and researcher Joe Peck examine poverty, unstable working hours, and a lack of financial savings, particularly among low-wage, less-educated women and mothers.

Some key findings in the report are:

  • Nationwide, about 15 percent of noncollege-educated mothers live in households with disposable incomes below the poverty line, triple the rate of higher-educated mothers. 
  • Poverty rates for women are especially higher than men when they just enter work. There is a striking gender disparity in poverty among young adults, between 18 to 34.
  • In the workplace, work-hour volatility reached its highest level for service sector unmarried mothers in 2020. Although in 2021, women in the service sector saw a substantial drop in the amount of volatility, it did not fully return to the pre-pandemic level.
  • In 2020, over half of working-class single mothers reported they needed to take loans or borrow money for a $400 emergency expense. 

Federal, state, and local policies can help close the poverty gap, stabilize working hours, and improve the financial health of working-class women and mothers. Long overdue family-friendly policies such as affordable childcare programs and paid leave would address increased poverty rates for women during childbearing years. 

Working-class women and mothers suffer disproportionately from the financial insecurity caused by unstable work hours. A child benefit paid out on a monthly basis smooth-out bumpy family economics of low-income or working-class mothers. Creating and enforcing fair work-hour protections promotes financial stability for the working class, particularly parents.

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