Tag Archives: Cara Jacob

Obstacles for Working Mothers

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This report explores disincentives to career advancement.

By Cara Jacob, Research Coordinator, The Women’s Fund and The HealthPath Foundation of Ohio

The Women’s Fund of the Greater Cincinnati Foundation leads our community in ensuring the economic self-sufficiency of women in our region and ignites a shared desire to improve it. One of the most influential ways we advance this mission is through our research; we have released seven groundbreaking studies in the past as part of our PULSE research series. All of The Women’s Fund research is available on our website.

We are excited to share that we have released our eighth PULSE study, in partnership with the University of Cincinnati’s Economics Center, titled “PULSE REPORT: Outlining the Disincentives and Opportunity Costs for Working Mothers.” This study began in response to findings on the Cliff Effect in Ohio, from our 2014 PULSE Briefing.

The Cliff Effect refers to a sudden drop off in public assistance due to an income raise that results in an overall loss of gross resources.

  • For example, a mother making $12 an hour might get a $0.50 raise, resulting in an overall annual income bump of a couple thousand dollars. But she becomes suddenly ineligible for her childcare assistance which costs her $8,000 a year. She is now $6,000 worse off because of her $0.50 advancement and unable to make ends meet.
  • We have a lot more information about the Cliff Effect and other factors affecting women’s economic self-sufficiency on our website at Self-Sufficiency 101.

In this new report, we wanted to dig into whether or not the Cliff Effect was preventing working mothers from taking raises or otherwise presenting barriers to women’s economic advancement. What we found was not exactly what we had expected.  As it turns out, the benefits cliffs in Hamilton County have largely been smoothed out. That’s the good news.

The bad news is that the picture is still pretty dismal for working mothers in our area. Our topline findings were:

  • The average annual income for a working mother in Hamilton County is $19,700, which is just 20% above the Federal Poverty Level for a family of two and roughly 50% below self-sufficiency for a mother and one preschool-age child.
  • From $8,000 annually to $42,000 annually a working mother’s gross resources (calculated as earned income plus public benefits) is essentially unchanging, leading many to feel that they are working harder and harder but they can’t get ahead. The graph below shows the tapering of benefits as earned income increases. The line across the top is the self-sufficiency level for Hamilton County.

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Working more hours does not necessarily mean you are financially better off. Consider the case below. Even at a wage as high as $20, a working mother going from part time to full time would be working an additional 1,000 hours for $900 a year.

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After digesting the complex nature of the challenge now before us, The Women’s Fund has developed a number of recommendations for change in our community. A few examples include:

  • Strongly advocate that all community recommendations and actions regarding poverty are firmly rooted in the way race, gender, and the intersectionality of the two play a critical role in the experience of individuals and in developing effective interventions.
  • Close the gender wage gap which is present at all levels of work in all occupational groups.
  • Promote full spectrum of benefits eligibility to those who qualify and collect more accurate data about usage rates.
  • Recognizing that women are disproportionately represented in low-wage work, encourage career mobility by building bridges to better paying jobs through mentorships, education, and on-the-job training.

Our findings were presented to the Greater Cincinnati community at a research release on August 30. Attendees included representatives from social service organizations, nonprofits, and the community-at-large. We are already beginning to have conversations about the implications of the research findings with the Child Poverty Collaborative and Partners for a Competitive Workforce.

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Cara Jacob

We hope you will share this with your friends and colleagues. Discuss it. Brainstorm interventions and ways you can help. We cannot eliminate the issue of poverty by ourselves- it can only be done by working together.

If you have any questions please feel free to contact me, Cara Jacob, Research Coordinator, at jacobc@gcfdn.org, if you have any questions!

If you are interested in getting involved with the Women’s Fund please contact Barb Linder, Coordinator, at linderb@gcfdn.org.

Cara Jacob is the Research Coordinator for The HealthPath Foundation of Ohio, a supporting organization of The Greater Cincinnati Foundation, and The Women’s Fund of The Greater Cincinnati Foundation .