Economic Stresses Weigh On Texas Women

By Sheryl Jean
The Dallas Morning News.

Women lead 30 percent of households in Texas but represent 53 percent of households in poverty.

Nearly 500,000 girls under 18 in Texas do not have health insurance.

Women in Texas, on average, are paid $9,158 a year less than men.

Those numbers are part of a report released Tuesday by the Texas Women’s Foundation based on a study conducted by the Center for Public Policy Priorities. The report shows high number of females live in poverty across the state.

The group also released a report for the Dallas area — the first of nine metropolitan studies to be issued through the fall.

According to the reports, 2.1 million women and girls in Texas live in poverty, including about 332,599 in seven counties in the Dallas area.

“The goal of this study is to provide a common understanding of women in Texas, a common language and hopefully a common set of solutions,” Roslyn Dawson Thompson, chief executive of the Texas Women’s Foundation, told more than 100 people Tuesday at a news conference in Dallas.

“We’re focused on what families need to have to move from surviving to thriving.”

The report identified several key issues — the wage gap, education and the cost of child care and housing — that have the most impact on women in the Dallas area and statewide. And those are the areas that must be improved to strengthen the economic security of women, Thompson said.

The group plans to propose some policy recommendations after it tours the state releasing the other eight metro reports, said Dena Jackson, vice president of grants and research for the Texas Women’s Foundation. The proposals will be “revenue neutral” to the state, she said.

“In Texas, not everyone is working toward the same goals, so to have actual data that shows these are real issues facing real people will help address these issues,” said Cece Cox, chief executive of Resource Center, a Dallas nonprofit that helps the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community and people with HIV/AIDS.

“This is a great starting point to know the data of the challenges we face in Dallas … to help address the issues and look toward a common cause.”

Equal pay has become an election issue across the country as several female Democratic candidates have tried to mobilize female voters by focusing on issues important to women.

In Texas, Democratic gubernatorial nominee Wendy Davis has criticized her Republican rival, Attorney General Greg Abbott, for opposing legislation that would make it easier for workers to file a wage discrimination claim.

Here are highlights from the two reports released Tuesday:

Wages: Women in the Dallas area earn 85 cents for each $1 earned by men — the smallest wage gap of all nine metro areas studied. It’s 79 cents statewide. Women make up the majority (63 percent) of low-wage workers in Texas.

Education: Education is often the key to higher-paying job. Dallas-area women with a high school diploma earn 64 percent more than women who didn’t graduate from high school. The difference is 44 percent statewide.

“Even with education, we have a gap to narrow,” Thompson said. Women borrow more than men to go to college and then, due to the wage gap, they end up with more of a debt burden than men, she said.

Child care: Child care for a full-time working parent in Texas costs roughly $5,000 a year per child. A typical single mother earns slightly less than $24,000 a year, meaning 21 percent of her income goes toward child care. It’s 22 percent in the Dallas area.

Health care: About 40 percent of women and girls statewide and 21 percent in the Dallas area lack health insurance. Among women in the prime child-bearing years of 18 to 34, 36 percent in Texas and 40 percent in the Dallas area have no health insurance.

Housing: Sixty-one percent of 71,000 single-mother families in the Dallas area spend at least 30 percent of their income on rent. That compares with 41 percent of single fathers and 36 percent of two-parent families. Statewide, 63 percent of single mothers carry that rent burden.

“I honestly think as we improve the situation for women, society will get better,” said Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez, who was in the audience.

“Law enforcement is nothing but the quality of life. The quality of women’s pay will help with child care and other issues related to the quality of life.”

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