Institute for Women’s Policy Research

The Institute for Women’s Policy Research conducts rigorous research and disseminates its findings to address the needs of women, promote public dialog, and strengthen families, communities, and societies.
It is the leading think tank in the United States focusing primarily on domestic women’s issues.Founded in 1987, IWPR’s reports and other informational resources have informed policies and programs across the country and internationally, in each of its key program areas: Employment, Education, & Economic Change, Democracy & Society, Poverty, Welfare, & Income SecurityWork & Family, and Health & Safety.


1200 18th Street NW
Washington, DC 20036
Ph. (202) 785-5100
Fx. (202) 833-4362


Principal Staff

Heidi Hartmann, Ph.D., President

Barbara Gault, Ph.D., Executive Director & Vice President

Featured Events


Projects & Campaigns

Employment, Education, and Economic Change
IWPR examines the quality of jobs across a diverse range of workers and job types, with an emphasis on low-wage employment. Our research explores access to employment benefits such as paid leave, pensions, and health insurance, as well as the adequacy of governmental work supports including Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) and Social Security. The area also covers the use and value of "family-friendly" policies such as paid time off to care for sick family members, flextime, telecommuting, and child care assistance.
IWPR tracks the gender wage gap over time in a series of fact sheets updated annually. According to our research, if change continues at the same slow pace as it has done for the past fifty years, it will take almost another fifty—or until 2056—for women to finally reach pay parity. IWPR’s project on sex and race discrimination in the workplace shows that outright discrimination in pay, hiring, or promotions continues to be a significant feature of working life.
Recognizing the necessity of higher education in increasing women’s earning power, IWPR’s Student Parent Success Initiative (SPSI) seeks to improve access and graduation for low-income student parents—particularly mothers—in college settings. Specifically, through a combination of research and outreach activities that aim to encourage information-sharing, educate leaders and policy makers, and improve public policies and resources, SPSI works to raise awareness about both the challenges and promise represented by parents seeking postsecondary degrees.
IWPR publishes occasional analyses of the impact of the business cycle on women’s employment outcomes. Between December 2007 and June 2009, the U.S. economy was in the worst recession since the Great Depression of the 1930s. Because much of the slowdown has occurred in traditionally male fields such as manufacturing and construction—while a few traditionally female fields such as health and education have shown job growth or minimal job loss—many reports have focused on the job losses among men in the labor force.
Democracy and Society
IWPR’s “Status of Women” reports are a unique source of comprehensive information on women. IWPR has analyzed data on a wide range of indicators at the local, state, national, and international levels, including demographics, economic security, educational attainment, reproductive rights, political participation, civic engagement, and access to health care and work supports. To date, IWPR has released reports on each U.S. state and the District of Columbia, in addition to several city/area reports, and a series of reports and a toolkit on Women in the Middle East and North Africa. Each report offers policy recommendations shaped by the research findings for that state or city/area.
Despite the growing number of immigrant women in the United States, their interests and concerns are often overlooked in public policy debates. IWPR’s research finds that women immigrants experience a number of challenges, such as reproductive health issues, domestic violence, and poor job quality within traditionally female positions. Many immigrant women—especially those who lack legal status—also face barriers to receiving support or services. To help address these challenges and raise the visibility of immigrant women’s contributions and concerns, IWPR conducts research on the social and economic circumstances of immigrant women and the resources available to them.
With the goal of informing policy on the issues of social programs, economic security, and the work environment for women, IWPR researches women’s leadership in unions as well as the impact of unionization on employment, income, and benefits overall and in different industries. IWPR’s recent and current work on women and unions provide analyses of labor markets for the communications and retail food industries, and guidelines for promoting women’s leadership in unions.
On an ongoing basis, IWPR continues to identify successful strategies to encourage women’s participation in civic and political life. From 2003-2008, IWPR conducted research with female activists working in a range of contexts—including interfaith organizations, unions, and secular social justice movements—about their experiences in taking on public leadership roles and the sources of motivation that inspired their involvement in this work.
Poverty, Welfare, and Economic Security
IWPR is a leading national resource on women’s income security—especially the economic security of women in retirement and the possible effects of Social Security changes on women.
Around the world, women tend to be in poverty at greater rates than men. The United Nations reported in 1997 that 70 percent of 1.3 billion people in poverty worldwide are women, while American Community Survey data from 2009 tells us that 55.2 percent of the 42.9 million people living in poverty in the United States are women and girls. Women’s higher likelihood of living in poverty exists within every major racial and ethnic group within the U.S. Among people in poverty, 16.7 percent are younger women ages 18 to 34, compared to 12.3 percent men in that age range.Older women are also much more likely than older men to live in poverty.IWPR has served as a resource on women’s poverty issues since its founding in 1987.
IWPR researchers began studying women’s circumstances along the U.S. Gulf Coast almost immediately after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and were among the first to respond with that focus. IWPR’s current research with women in the post-Katrina Gulf region suggests that improvements to policy and planning can help with everyday life, as well as in emergencies or disasters.
Work and Family
Student parents make up 26 percent of community college students and many have young children, yet IWPR's research shows that child care available only meets a tiny fraction of the need. Improving child care access is not only about improving access to sources of care and education outside the home, but also requires increasing parents' ability to care for their own children. Significant investments in children's well-being in the early years has enormous long-term payoffs. IWPR has worked both national and state levels—in California, Kansas, Illinois, and the District of Columbia—to estimate the costs of implementing early care and education expanses. IWPR also developed a "how-to" manual demonstrating how other states can adapt the model to serve their specific policy needs.
In a 2009 briefing paper, IWPR reported that employees who attended work while infected with H1N1 are estimated to have caused the infection of as many as 7 million co-workers (according to data compiled by IWPR from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Bureau of Labor Statistics). Public opinion tends to support PSD policies as demonstrated by a 2010 survey by IWPR. The survey of registered voters, funded by the Rockefeller Foundation, found that more than two-thirds of registered voters (69 percent) endorse laws to provide paid sick days.
In 2008, IWPR released a report focusing on statutory employment rights aimed at increasing workers’ ability to change their working hours and arrangements in 20 high-income countries. Statutory Routes to Workplace Flexibility in Cross-National Perspective includes statutes providing a general right to alternative work arrangements as well as those targeting work-family reconciliation, lifelong learning, and gradual retirement, and argues that an explicit right to request flexible working can play an important role in preparing the U.S. economy for the future.
Health and Safety
IWPR’s research on women’s health and safety informs policy decisions by identifying gender and racial/ethnic disparities in health outcomes and access to health care services in addition to highlighting opportunities for improvement. IWPR’s reports and resources discuss a range of policy issues including access to paid sick days, the relationship between women’s health and socio-economic status, cost-benefit analyses of paid sick days provision, and rates of breastfeeding.


Reports & Resources

The Status of Women and Girls in Colorado
by Cynthia Hess, Ph.D., Ariane Hegewisch, Youngmin Yi, Claudia Williams, and Justine Augeri(June 2013)
This report provides critical data and analyzes areas of progress for women and girls in Colorado as well as places where progress has slowed or stalled. It examines a range of interconnected issues affecting the lives of women and girls in Colorado, including economic security and poverty, employment and earnings, educational opportunity, personal safety, and women’s leadership. In addition to discussing the current status of women and girls, the report tracks progress over the last two decades by comparing findings with those from earlier status of women reports by The Women’s Foundation of Colorado and Girls Count (1994) and the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (2000). The 2013 Status of Women and Girls in Colorado report also analyzes how the circumstances of women and girls differ across Colorado’s regions and how women and girls in the state fare compared with their counterparts in the nation as a whole.
Moderate Job Growth for Both Women and Men: Unemployment Rate for Single Mothers Declines to 9.9 Percent
by Institute for Women's Policy Research (June 2013)
According to the IWPR analysis of the June employment report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), job growth for both women and men improved in May compared to the previous month. Of the 175,000 total jobs added to nonfarm payrolls, women gained 82,000 jobs (47 percent) while men gained 93,000 jobs (53 percent). For the first time since December 2008, the unemployment rate for women who head households without a spouse fell below ten percent.
Valuing Good Health in Oregon: The Costs and Benefits of Earned Sick Days
by Claudia William, Jasmin Griffin, and Jeffrey Hayes (May 2013)
This briefing paper uses data collected by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Oregon Public Health Division, and the U.S. Census Bureau to evaluate costs and benefits of Oregon’s House Bill 3390. It estimates how much time off Oregon workers would use under the proposed policy and the costs to employers for that sick time. This analysis also uses findings from previous peer-reviewed research to estimate cost-savings associated with the proposed policy, through reduced turnover, reduced spread of contagious disease in the workplace, prevention of productivity losses from employees working while sick, minimized nursing-home stays, and reduced norovirus outbreaks in nursing homes. The study is one of a series of analyses by IWPR examining the effects of earned sick days policies.
Making Research Count for Women: Launching the Next 25 Years
by Institute for Women's Policy Research (May 2013)
The Gendered Dynamics of Income Security: How Social Science Research Can Identify Pathways Out of Poverty and Toward Economic Security
by Courtney Kishbaugh and Jeffrey Hayes, Ph.D.(May 2013)
The Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) addressed issues of women, poverty and income security issues from its beginnings. IWPR’s first publication on these topics, Low-Wage Jobs and Workers: Trends and Options for Change (published in 1989), finds a growing share of adults working in low-wage jobs and a growing share of families relying on low-wage work for a major share of family income. It also finds that women and people of color are far more likely to work in low-wage jobs than white males. Federal or federally-funded data sets analyzed for the study included the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP) and the Panel Study on Income Dynamics (PSID). Low-Wage Jobs and Workers, a report funded by the U.S. Department of Labor and jointly disseminated with the non-profit Women Work! (then the National Displaced Homemakers Network), became the first of many influential policy pieces centered on poverty and income security. Since then, IWPR has continued to expand its research on poverty issues, focusing primarily on the topics of Social Security and older women’s economic security, welfare reform and its impact on women and children, the impact of unemployment on low-income women and their families, and the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in the Gulf Coast region. IWPR’s work has shed light on the experiences and needs of particularly vulnerable and underserved communities, inspired national and international conversations about these issues, and informed policy change.
The Truth in the Data: How Quantifying Women’s Labor Market Experiences Changes the Conversation about the Economy
by Ariane Hegewisch, Maxwell Matite, and Youngmin Yi (May 2013)
From the outset, IWPR has highlighted the wage gap as a key indicator of women’s economic security and gender (in)equality in the workplace. Fact sheets on the overall gender wage gap were published in IWPR’s first years and document how much the earnings ratio between men and women changed over time, as well as how earnings for different groups of women varied over this period of time. From 1996 onwards, the Institute’s research program on the Status of Women in the States has made these data available on a state-by-state basis, including in the report Women's Economic Status in the States: Wide Disparities by Race, Ethnicity, and Region (published in 2004). IWPR also provides state-by-state wage data in Femstats, a section of its website, in spreadsheet form. IWPR’s research has also linked trends in the wage gap to policy developments, changes in the economy, and ongoing changes in women’s lives. Such trends as later marriage, reduced fertility, gains in education, the growth of low-wage jobs and contingent work in the U.S. economy, and changes in the minimum wage, equal employment opportunity enforcement, and collective bargaining all affect women’s opportunities in the labor market, including their labor force participation and the amount of sex segregation they face in employment. IWPR’s studies have ranged from detailed examinations of specific industries to analyses of trends affecting the entire economy.
Investing in Success: How Quality Early Child Care, Education, and Workforce Training Improve the Well-Being of Girls and Women
by Holly Firlein, Barbara Gault, Ph.D., and Bethany Nelson (May 2013)
Recognizing that education is the gateway to opportunity, the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) has been a significant source of research on education and training, including work on early care and education, girls' experiences in the K-12 system, high quality workforce development opportunities, and postsecondary attainment. Its work has explored the importance of education for improving women's earnings, the importance of access to quality early care and education for mothers’ labor force outcomes, methods for improving job quality among early care and education providers, the role of child care in spurring and sustaining economic development, the importance of low-income women's access to postsecondary education as a poverty reduction tool, strategies for increasing the success of student parents in college through providing child care and other supports, and inceasing women's representation in higher paying, traditionally male careers such as in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) fields.
Enhancing the Status of Women: How Engaging Women in Leadership Creates a More Inclusive Democracy and Improves Women’s Lives
by Elyse Shaw, Drew McCormick, Heidi Hartmann, Ph.D., and Barbara Gault, Ph.D. (May 2013)
The Institute for Women’s Policy Research has been at the forefront of research on issues and policies that affect women’s continued participation and leadership in society and politics. Through its analysis of the issues of greatest importance to women in society, IWPR has greatly contributed to social and policy changes. The research done by IWPR in the area of democracy and society across the years has shown the ways in which American society benefits from the advancement of women in leadership positions and women’s increased civic and political engagement. IWPR’s research also highlights policy changes that would help women achieve greater equity. IWPR continues to work both internationally and domestically to provide relevant data on issues of importance to women’s lives and has disseminated its research through various conferences to ensure that advocates and policymakers alike have the tools to enable them to participate in making policy changes that benefit women and their families.
Health, Safety, Violence, and Disaster: How Economic Analysis Improves Outcomes for Women and Families
by Susan Martin, Ph.D. and Youngmin Yi (May 2013)
IWPR’s women’s health and safety efforts highlight the social and economic aspects of health, safety, and security issues. Over the past quarter century, the Institute has addressed women’s access to health insurance, the costs and benefits of preventive health services, reproductive health and rights, including the economic benefits of economic freedom, and the link between women’s socioeconomic status and health. IWPR’s examinations of safety issues have drawn attention to domestic violence as well as the effects of terrorism and disasters on women’s well-being. Its research has informed policy decisions by identifying both the limitations on access to health care services and ways to expand access, as well as the gender and racial/ethnic disparities in health outcomes. The Institute’s reports and resources have addressed a range of policy issues such as access to paid sick days including analyses of the health benefits of providing paid sick-days, breastfeeding protections under the Affordable Care Act, and in-home services for the elderly and others who need long-term care. For example, IWPR’s fact sheets and briefing papers include a 1994 analysis of the proposed Clinton health care reform o access to health insurance for women of color, a policy update on abortion since the passage of Roe v. Wade, published in 2003, and an estimate in 2012 of potential benefits and cost savings, focused on savings from reduced emergency room use, anticipated with the adoption of mandatory paid sick days in New York City.
Maternity, Paternity, and Adoption Leave in the United States
by Yuko Hara and Ariane Hegewisch (May 2013)
The United States is one of only four countries globally, and the only high-income country, without a statutory right to paid maternity leave for employees. In all but a few states, it is up to the employer to decide whether to provide paid leave. This briefing paper summarizes employees’ legal rights in relation to pregnancy, childbirth and adoption, and nursing breaks, and examines how far employers are voluntarily moving to provide paid parental leave beyond basic legal rights. It draws on three data sources: leave benefits offered by Working Mother magazine’s “100 Best Companies,” the Family and Medical Leave Act in 2012 Survey, and the National Compensation Survey. This briefing paper finds that the large majority of the “100 Best Companies” provides paid maternity leave, and many provide paid leave for adoption or paternity leave, although only a small minority provides pay during the full 12 weeks of FMLA leave. Among employers more broadly, a third (35 percent) of employees work for an employer offering paid maternity leave, and a fifth (20 percent) paid paternity leave, according to the FMLA 2012 Survey. According to the National Compensation Survey, only 12 percent of employees in the United States have access to paid leave for any care of family members (newborns, adopted children, or ill children or adults). Lower paid workers are least likely to have access to paid leave. International research suggests that the introduction of a statutory right to paid leave for parents would improve the health and economic situations of women and children and would promote economic growth.
Access to Earned Sick Days in Oregon
by Institute for Women's Policy Research (May 2013)
An analysis by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) reveals that about 596,800 private sector employees in Oregon lack even a single earned sick day. Access to earned sick days promotes healthy work environments by reducing the spread of illness,1,2 increasing productivity,3 and supporting work and family balance.4 Earned sick days allow people to take time off work to recover from illness and to tend to family members’ health without the fear of lost pay or other negative consequences. This briefing paper presents estimates of lack of earned sick days access rates in Oregon by occupation, by sex, race and ethnicity, personal annual earnings, and work schedule through analysis of government data sources, including the 2010–2011 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) and the 2009–2011 American Community Survey (ACS).
Job Growth Improves for Women in April 2013; Men Gained Fewer Jobs
by Institute for Women's Policy Research (May 2013)
According to the IWPR analysis of the May employment report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), job growth for women improved in April compared to the previous month. Of the 165,000 total jobs added to nonfarm payrolls, women gained 117,000 jobs (71 percent) while men gained 48,000 jobs (29 percent).
Valuing Good Health in Vermont: The Costs and Benefits of Earned Health Care Time
by Claudia Williams with assistance from Jasmin Griffin and Jeffrey Hayes (April 2013)
The briefing paper uses data collected by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Vermont Department of Health, and the U.S. Census Bureau to evaluate costs and benefits of Vermont’s H.208. It estimates how much time off Vermont workers would use under the proposed policy and the costs to employers for that sick time. This analysis also uses findings from previous peer-reviewed research to estimate cost-savings associated with the policy, through reduced turnover, reduced spread of contagious disease in the workplace, prevention of productivity losses from employees working while sick, minimized nursing-home stays, and reduced norovirus outbreaks in nursing homes. The study is one of a series of analyses by IWPR examining the effects of earned health care time policies.
The Gender Wage Gap by Occupation
by Ariane Hegewisch and Maxwell Matite (April 2013)
Women’s median earnings are lower than men’s in nearly all occupations, whether they work in occupations predominantly done by women, occupations predominantly done by men, or occupations with a more even mix of men and women. During 2012, median weekly earnings for female full-time workers were $691, compared with $854 per week for men, a gender wage ratio of 80.9 percent (Table 1; a gender wage gap of 19.1 percent).1 Added to the gender wage gap within occupations is the gender wage gap between occupations. Male-dominated occupations tend to pay more than female-dominated occupations at similar skill levels, particularly in jobs that require higher educational levels.2 Tackling occupational segregation is an important part of eliminating the gender wage gap.
Job Growth Slows for Both Women and Men
by The Institute for Women's Policy Research (April 2013)
At Current Pace of Progress, Wage Gap for Women Expected to Close in 2057
by Institute for Women's Policy Research (April 2013)
Women and the Care Crisis: Valuing In-Home Care in Policy and Practice
by Cynthia Hess, Ph.D., (April 2013)
The paper suggests that to improve the quality of in-home care jobs, address the industry’s anticipated labor shortage, and ensure that high-quality care is available in the United States, it is necessary to increase the value attributed to care work through critical changes in public policies and practices. These changes would benefit not only the women and men who are care workers or recipients, but also the nation overall. As a sector in which job growth is especially rapid, the care industry is integral to the U.S. economy; as a result, any changes that help to fill the gap in this industry and improve conditions for its workforce will strengthen the nation’s economy as a whole.
Quality Employment for Women in the Green Economy: Industry, Occupation, and State-by-State Job Estimates
by Ariane Hegewisch, Jeff Hayes, Ph.D., Tonia Bui, Anlan Zhang (April 2013)
This report provides the first-ever estimates of women’s employment in the green economy, state-by-state, by industry, and by occupation. The analysis draws on the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey; the Brookings-Battelle Clean Economy database; and the U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics Green Goods and Services survey. The report examines women’s share of employment in the occupations predicted to see the highest growth in the green economy and includes two alternative state-by-state estimates for growth in green jobs. Focusing on investments in green buildings and retrofits, the report includes a state-by-state analysis of employment in key construction occupations by age, race, ethnicity, and gender. This report was funded by a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation’s Sustainable Employment in a Green US Economy (SEGUE) Program. It is the first of a series of publications investigating strategies for improving women’s access to quality employment in the green economy; future reports will address good practices in workforce development for women in the green economy.
Valuing Good Health in New York City: The Costs and Benefits of Earned Sick Days
by Jeff Hayes, Ph.D. (March 2013)
Valuing Good Health in New York City: The Costs and Benefits of Earned Sick Days
by Claudia Williams (March 2013)


Center News

IWPR Helps Inform Historic Vote to Legislate Paid Sick Days in Connecticut
Thursday, June 16, 2011 - 4:06pm

On June 4th, Connecticut became the first state to pass a paid sick days law. The Institute for Women's Policy Research analyzed the cost of paid sick days in Connecticut, and their research on paid sick days continues to inform news reports as several states, cities, and municipalities consider similar legislation. Read more information on IWPR Family Leave & Paid Sick Days Initiative.

The Importance of Social Security Benefits to Women
Thursday, July 29, 2010 - 11:25am

Social Security provides a critical income source for women. Women receive benefits both as workers and as spouses or survivors of workers. Read more of the "Testimony before the
National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform" by clicking here! 

IWPR Announces New Research Director Dr. Robert Drago
Thursday, July 1, 2010 - 11:42am

The Institute for Women's Policy Research (IWPR) is proud to announce that Dr. Robert Drago joined the staff as Director of Research in June. Dr. Drago recently served as Senior Economist at the Joint Economic Committee of Congress and Professor of Labor Studies and Women's Studies at The Pennsylvania State University.

New IWPR/IFES Survey Reports on Women's Political, Economic, and Social Status in Morocco
Thursday, July 1, 2010 - 11:36am

RABAT-A national survey of the political, economic, social and legal status of women in Morocco released by the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) and the Institute for Women's Policy Research (IWPR) shows a mixed picture of women's status in the region.

 Focus on Morocco Topic Briefs can be viewed here.  

This Father's Day, Dads Need Health Insurance
Thursday, July 1, 2010 - 11:33am

A new study by the Institute for Women's Policy Research (IWPR) and the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) reveals some bad news for men: they are a majority of non-elderly adults in the United States who lack health insurance, according to an analysis of the 2009 March Current Population Survey.

 View the fact sheet here!

Webinar-Social Security at 75: Building Economic Security, Closing the Racial Wealth Gap
Thursday, June 17, 2010 - 3:21pm

Insight Center for Community Economic Development is hosting a Webinar: Building Economic Security, Closing the Racial Wealth Gap. Seventy-five years after the introduction of Social Security, the program is often celebrated for its role in alleviating poverty.

To RSVP, please click here.

Latina Immigrants in Phoenix Face Vulnerabilities at a Crucial Time
Tuesday, June 8, 2010 - 10:32am

A fact sheet released by the Institute for Women's Policy Research reveals that Latino/a immigrants in Phoenix face a range of social and economic vulnerabilities that often affect women more than men.

Read more here!

Read the entire fact sheet by clicking here!