The Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) just released a new analysis – The Status of Women in the South. (This analysis deepens the research from their annual Status of Women reports.) North Carolina received a C- overall, with particularly poor showings in the Work & Family, Poverty & Opportunity, and Health & Well-Being categories. And in general, women in the South face some serious geographical disparities.
The female poverty rate is highest in the South – 16.4 percent versus all other states at 13.7 percent. And in half of Southern families with children, mothers are the breadwinners for their family, “meaning they are either a sole provider or a married mother who earns at least 40 percent of the couple’s earnings.” According to IWPR’s analysis, if working women had equal pay their poverty rate would drop by more than half, and women’s average earnings would increase by over $6,000, from $35,788 to $42,180. This would amount to an overall earnings increase of $155.4 billion. That would be an especially big boost for Latina women – at $26,000 they have the lowest median annual earnings for any racial or ethnic group in the South.
North Carolina received a C- overall, with particularly poor showings in the Work & Family, Poverty & Opportunity, and Health & Well-Being categories.
For women of color, the education earnings disparity is greater in the South than anywhere else in the country. Black and Latina women with a bachelor’s degree or higher nearly double their earnings. Put another way – education makes a big difference in women of color’s economic security. Unfortunately, college degree attainment for people of color in general still lags behind. Additionally, Southern Millennial women are more likely to have a bachelor’s degree than their male counterparts, but less likely than millennial women in the rest of the country.
One surprising positive is Southern women’s child care access. “Women in the South tend to have better access to quality, affordable child care when compared with the United States overall,” and half of the Southern states rank in the top 10 on IWPR’s child care index. (North Carolina came in at 11.) But with the exception of D.C. most Southern states do pretty poorly on other Work & Family metrics. The vast majority of Southern women in the workplace don’t have paid sick days, paid family leave, or flexible work schedules. And most of the health metrics are also overwhelmingly negative. No state in the South is in IWPR’s top third for Health & Well-Being, though North Carolina is in the top third in the region. Women in the South have higher mortality rates from heart disease and breast cancer, higher rates of HIV/AIDS and diabetes, and higher reports of poor mental and physical health. These women also have lower rates of health care access, especially when you look at women of color.
Click here to see IWPR’s full report on women in the South.