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One Big Thing: Equal Pay and Child Care

Resource March 14, 2023

A new report by Wells Fargo has found that a majority of women in the United States — a record 52 percent — were unmarried in 2021. 

  • The report found single women with children had a median net worth of just $7,000 in 2019, $58,000 lower than the net worth of a single woman without children. 
  • Men with children, however, sacrificed only $2,000 of their wealth, compared to the $58,000 that mothers did.  

The study pointed to the wage gap as a reason why single women’s net worth is so much lower. But there is a prevailing issue that widens the wage gap and drains single women’s bank accounts: child care. 

  • According to a Women’s Bureau report, child care prices accounted for up to 75% of income for single-parent households.

Francine Blau, an economist at Cornell who has been studying the gender pay gap for decades told NPR this morning that one of the biggest factors affecting the wage gap is child care.” Many women shy away from really demanding positions or work only part time because they need time and flexibility to care for their kids.

  • “Women will choose jobs or switch to occupations or companies that are more family friendly,” she explains. “But a lot of times those jobs will pay less.”
  • For every woman at a senior management level who gets promoted, two women leave their jobs, most citing child care as a major reason.

The bottom line: The Washington Post dubbed single women as “a growing economic force, accounting for a larger share of growth in the job market, homeownership and college degrees”. But child care – or a lack thereof – is hindering that force. As a result, too many moms are being held back. Congress has the power to help solve America’s child care crisis by passing significant, sustained investments in early learning and care.

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