Friday, April 22, 2011

New Jersey Summit Breaks Down Silos

The New Jersey Foundation for Aging, in partnership with the National Council on Aging (NCOA), held an Elder Economic Summit last week. The goal of the summit was to break down silos among groups working on behalf of the economic security of elders. 

The cost of living in New Jersey is among the highest in the nation. According to WOW’s Elder Index, it costs a single renter in New Jersey $24,452 to make ends meet each year. It costs even more for a senior with a mortgage – $34,947 – to meet basic needs and about 1 in 5 seniors in New Jersey is still paying off a mortgage. 

Many people are not saving enough for retirement; in fact, 1 in 4 people rely on Social Security for 90% of their income. The average Social Security payment for a woman in New Jersey is $12,741, providing only 36% to 52% of what she needs to make ends meet (depending on whether she is a renter, homeowner or has a mortgage). It is clear that many seniors need services to help close this large gap.
In addition to already stretched budgets, seniors are unfortunately often the target of financial predators. The summit brought together credit and debt counseling and money management programs to illustrate the importance of collaboration amongst all service providers and how working together benefits the entire financial picture for seniors. 

The leadership of the New Jersey Foundation on Aging and the outcomes of this summit will help unite service providers throughout the state to ultimately strengthen the economic security of elders.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Sadly, Equal Pay is Still an Issue

Today is Equal Pay Day.  I started my day at the American Planning Association’s national conference in Boston, where I joined colleagues to talk about the gender pay gap.  Of course, women have certainly made significant progress over the decades in terms of occupational access and educational attainment, yet these advances have not resulted in full equity in the labor market.  Instead one of the most significant markers of labor market success---equal pay---remains an elusive goal for women.  On average the pay gap stands at around 79 percent.  And this is not a one-time financial loss.  The pay gap leads to a lifetime of income and wealth loss.  The cumulative impacts of the pay gap reduce women’s benefits from Social Security and other pension plans and their ability to save for retirement, housing, college educations, etc.   The lost earnings are staggering- -according to the 2008 report of the American Association of University Women, over a 35 year working life, women can lose $210,000 simply because of gender.

While increased levels of education and training help women earn more income, it does not eliminate the gender pay gap.  In fact the pay gap not only continues to persist at all education levels, it is actually more pronounced at higher educational levels.  The gender pay gap is actually larger for women with college and graduate degrees than for women with less education (as compared to comparable men).  Such findings are particularly troubling, as they cast doubt on the idea that if women would simply invest in their education, and gain the human capital credentials, the pay gap would disappear. 

Eradicating the pay gap is truly a matter of fairness and economic survival for women. Women’s labor force participation has reached the 50 percent mark and substantial numbers of them are integral contributors to their family’s economic security.  In two-earner families the wife, on average contributes a third of the family income.  In addition, 76 percent of single mothers are in the labor force and these women, raising their children on their own, are their family’s only earner.  Women’s incomes are critical to their families’ economic well-being and equity in pay is a direct way that can help to decrease the number of women and children living in poverty.

As I left my presentation this morning I could not help but remember that one of my very first publications in graduate school back in 1990’s, was a book chapter, written with one of my mentors, Patricia Roos, on the pay gap.  And as I headed out into the streets of Boston after my talk, I realized that our paper is as relevant today as when we wrote it.  And then an even more disturbing thought crossed my mind.  Unless we make Equal Pay a priority and a reality, there will, unfortunately, be many more Equal Pay Days to come.

Mary Gatta, Ph. D.
Senior Scholar
Wider Opportunities for Women

Friday, April 8, 2011

WOW Holds National Partners Summit, Releases US BEST Report

Last week, Wider Opportunities Women (WOW) was pleased to host our Elder Economic Security Initiative state partners for our National Partner Summit here in Washington, DC. WOW’s Family Economic Security program partners also participated in the Summit, which includes those organizations involved in our GREEN Institute, Basic Economic Security Tables (BEST) and Self-Sufficiency Standard work. The event featured speakers from many different sectors, including administration officials, foundations and think tank organizations. Our state partners also spent an afternoon on Capitol Hill speaking to their senators’ offices on the importance of programs and services up for cuts in the federal budget debate.

WOW also released at the event our newest measure – the Basic Economic Security Tables (BEST) for the United States,which is the first ever measure of economic security that takes into account what American workers need to save for retirement.  Our new measure received a host of media attention over the past week and we invite you to check it out at