Texas women face higher rates of poverty, due to policy choices and systemic barriers

The Texas Women’s Foundation has been drawing attention to the economic issues facing women in Texas for years, focusing on four “pillars” that produce financial security: education, childcare, insurance illness and housing.

Dena Jackson, the foundation’s chief strategy officer, said these day-to-day issues haven’t always received the attention they deserve. But the pandemic has changed that.

“Each one of them has made headlines and been on KERA’s front page for the past two and a half years,” she said. “So what I think COVID has done is bring attention to areas where women and families in Texas were already struggling.”

While women and girls make up more than half of the state’s population, they also face higher rates of poverty than boys and men, according to the foundation’s latest report. Economic issues for women in Texas report. Women of color face disproportionate burdens, the report points out, due to systemic racism and barriers created by policy makers.

child care

The report shows the main challenges faced by families with young children when it comes to childcare. The median income for women in Texas is around $43,000 per year. Full-time child care for a year will consume about 21% of that income.

Breaking down care costs and income data by race, Jackson said, shows an even heavier burden borne by non-white Texans.

“For a Latina woman in Texas, her median income is $31,500, but she has the same child care costs,” Jackson said. “So she spends 27% of her income on child care. »

On the other side, child care workers — who are disproportionately women — are among the lowest paid workers in the state. While recent wage increases for workers across all sectors of the economy are generally good for women, Jackson said child care centers have found themselves in an increasingly difficult position.

“They can’t raise their prices because people can’t afford it. And therefore they cannot pay their workers much more. And so there’s a big struggle for staff, and of course you have to have adequate staff to look after the children well.

The challenges arising from child care have a direct impact on the Texas workforce.

About 1 in 5 workers in Texas are mothers who need to babysit for work. And an expensive and insufficient childcare system prevents their full participation in the economy: 29% of women who responded to the household survey said they had to work fewer hours to care for children. children, 26% used holidays or sick days to take care of children, and 25% did not look for work because they needed to take care of children.

While the burden falls disproportionately on mothers, fathers are also missing work due to childcare needs, Jackson pointed out.

“It’s a Texas economic problem,” Jackson said. “It’s a question of manpower. It’s an employer issue. It’s not just a “women’s issue”.


The report identifies housing as “the anchor of economic stability” for families.

“Housing is a real bigenerational issue because it impacts the mental health, physical health, and academic performance of adults and children,” Jackson said.

Even before skyrocketing rents and home values, Texas lacked an adequate supply of affordable housing. Today, the challenges are even more serious.

The burden is felt hardest by renters: 45% of renter households in Texas spend more than 30% of their income on housing, compared to 20% of owners. And 21% of Texas renter households pay half their income or more for housing.

Jackson said she hopes the legislature will take action in the 2023 legislative session to improve tenant rights and limit evictions.

In Dallas, Houston and Fort Worth, eviction claims have skyrocketed as pandemic protections have plummeted and rents have risen. But Jackson points out that Austin, which has continued to require landlords to give tenants the opportunity to catch up on rent to avoid eviction, still has eviction rates far lower than before the COVID. She would like to see this “right to heal” become state law.

Policy Changes

The foundation’s report presents nearly two dozen policy recommendations at the local, state and federal levels. Along with changes to housing and childcare policies, they tackle pay inequality, education and health care.

Jackson said she hopes increased attention to these key issues impacting women’s lives will help advance longstanding political reforms during the 2023 legislative session.

If the Texas legislature expands Medicaid — as 38 states already have — 406,000 uninsured Texas women would be helped, for example. Increasing postpartum health coverage could significantly reduce maternal mortality, Jackson said. The report also calls for more funding for the existing pre-K program, mandating paid sick leave and increasing financial aid for college and job training.

“I think COVID has elevated these issues for a wide range of us in this state across socioeconomic levels,” Jackson said. “And I think we, as Texas voters and Texas citizens, will speak up more.”

Do you have any advice? Christopher Connelly is KERA’s One Crisis Away reporter, exploring life on the edge of finance. Email Christopher at [email protected] can follow Christopher on Twitter @hithisischris.

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