The National Council for Research on Women Project on the Economic Recovery Act
Reinvesting in Women and Families: Developing an Economy for the Future
NCRW has as its primary mission to promote a more equitable, inclusive, just and sustainable world for women and girls. That means:
* Raising awareness about the real lives and challenges of women and girls based on evidence-based research
* Focusing on persistent disparities and inequalities in socio-economic indicators including health, education, employment and investments in women
* Identifying critical issues and providing relevant data and analysis, including solutions and best practices
* Supporting policies and programs aimed at advancing women in the economy and society both nationally and globally
* Serving as a reliable source of news, information and analysis for researchers, policymakers and decision makers across sectors
* Bridging divides and silos to make research, policy and advocacy more relevant and cutting-edge
NCRW’s Vision for the Proposed Project
In the midst of the current economic crisis—which is exacerbating previously existing disparities and inequalities in the United States—the Recovery Act offers an opportune moment to raise up public investment for all Americans and make inroads on gender equality. Building on the Council’s commitment to policies and programs that advance women’s economic well-being, this project aims to gain a better understanding of the impact of the Act on women and their families. Additionally, the project would examine the inequities in the Recovery Act’s allocation of resources and ways to address the resulting disparities.
Research has shown that educating and advancing women has an exponential impact on family well-being. The proposed project will assess the extent to which the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is adequately reaching low-income women and families, particularly families of color, and identify key indicators that need to be examined to determine the Act’s potential and actual impact on women’s lives.
This collaborative project will draw on the expertise of NCRW’s network, bringing together member centers located in critical regions and/or doing work around the key economic indicators listed below. Combining this local expertise with a national perspective drawn from a broader network of experts, the project will utilize quantitative and qualitative methods to gather the necessary data.
Accurate, disaggregated data will allow researchers to better aid the Administration in crafting future economic policies that work for everyone.
Background on the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA)
There are many provisions of the $787 recovery package that will address women’s needs.i The Act includes increased funding for child care and early education through the Child Care and Development Block grant and funding allocated to Head Start and Early Head Start. The Recovery Act expands and modernizes unemployment insurance (UI), providing incentives to states if they eliminate barriers to UI coverage for low-wage and part-time workers, workers who leave for compelling family reasons, and their dependents. By providing increased federal support for Medicaid and a 65% temporary COBRA premium subsidy, ARRA prevented cuts in Medicaid spending. ARRA also invests in education and job training by increasing the maximum Pell grant, allocating over $50 billion to a new State Fiscal Stabilization Fund for education, and nearly $4 billion in additional funding for training and employment services under the Workforce Investment Act.
The Recovery Act should provide job opportunities for women. The Act provides $80 million for enforcement of worker protection laws and regulations, including banning discrimination and requiring Federal contractors and subcontractors to take affirmative steps to ensure equal opportunity.ii Increased funding in the Act for health care, education, child care, and social services should also preserve and create jobs in fields currently dominated by women.
In January, Christina Romer from the Council of Economic Advisors and Jared Bernstein from the Office of the Vice-President released an analysis of the stimulus package, breaking down how resources would be allocated and how this would affect job opportunities. According to their analysis, 42% of the jobs created or saved by the economic stimulus package would go to women.iii They arrived at this figure by calculating women’s share of the jobs in each industry. For example, women comprise 13% of workers employed in the mining industry, 13% in construction, and 29% in manufacturing. Respectively, the stimulus package will create 26,000 mining jobs, 678,000 construction jobs, and 408,000 manufacturing jobs.
The Women of Color Policy Network at NYU Wagner, however, challenges these optimistic estimates. According to their report, Race, Gender, and the Recession:iv
The impact and benefit of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act for women of color and their communities in relationship to job creation and employment will be miniscule due to the disproportionately high unemployment rates among racial and ethnic minorities compared to Whites; the underrepresentation of women, Blacks, and Latinos in targeted industries; and historical patterns of labor segmentation that have blocked access to higher paying and union jobs for Blacks and Latinos.
Based on this analysis, it is unclear whether job creation spurred by the Recovery Act will actually reach those most impacted by the recession due to both targeting difficulties within the Act and to larger structural barriers in the economy. The Recovery Act has the potential to create greater opportunity but if misused may deepen inequality.
Status of the Recovery Act
Approximately 30% of the Recovery Act money has been dispersed.v In the first six months, the stimulus has largely involved individual tax cuts, state fiscal relief, and aid to those most directly hurt by the recession.vi The first reports on federal contracts came out on October 15, and the loan and grant recipient reports were released on October 30. NCRW is working to track these reports.
According to the Council of Economic Advisors, the Recovery Act has added around 2.3% to real GDP growth and employment in August was more than 1 million jobs higher than it would have been without the stimulus.vii The CEA notes, however, that any estimates of the impact at this early stage must be regarded as preliminary and subject to considerable uncertainty.
Recovery.gov reports that the Recovery Act has created or saved 640,329 jobs, based on U.S. Treasury, Federal Agency Financial and Activity Reports.viii A report released on ProPublica notes, however, that the higher the state’s unemployment rate, the less Recovery Act funding it has received, indicating that recovery funding may not be reaching those most in need.ix For instance, the Recovery Act slated just under $100 billion for transportation and infrastructure. Wyoming received around $186 million and has an unemployment rate of 3.2%. Essentially, Wyoming received $20,000 per unemployed worker. The District of Columbia, with an unemployment rate of 8%, received $267 million in Recovery Act money for transportation and infrastructure. This amounts to only $10,000 per unemployed worker.
An analysis by the Kirwan Institute shows that a comparatively low percentage of ARRA contracts and revenues are reaching minority- and women-owned businesses.x Through October 12, the federal government had disseminated more than $25 billion in funds, with only approximately $1.6 billion reaching Black-, Hispanic- or women-owned businesses. While approximately 14 percent of businesses are minority-owned, the study shows that minority-owned businesses received only 9.6 percent of federal contracts. The study shows that only 1.3 percent of ARRA funds went to Black-owned businesses, 2.0 percent to Hispanic-owned businesses and 3.1 percent to women-owned businesses. Comparably, there are 5.2 percent Black-owned, 7.0 percent Hispanic-owned and 28.3 percent women-owned U.S. businesses overall.
Building sustainable economic security, especially for women, requires public policy that focuses on issues related to education, childcare, job training, investments in human infrastructure, healthcare, green jobs, and nontraditional jobs.
Laura Lein’s work on low-income families in the U.S. stresses the role of multiple problems.xi xii Her research demonstrates that many low-income families experience inadequate medical care, substandard housing, unreliable child care, food insecurity, and lack of transportation—all at the same time. To address economic issues for this segment of the U.S. population, researchers must first understand and acknowledge how these interrelated issues often exacerbate one another and serve as barriers to successful employment and long-term economic security.
Recent research released by the Center for Research on Women at Memphis University confirmed that single mothers are particularly vulnerable to poverty and that poverty alleviation policies often add barriers to economic security rather than provide pathways to stability.xiii By offering inadequate child care assistance and limiting education and training opportunities (among other things), these policies and programs actually support the continuation of poverty patterns.
By providing increased investments in education and job training, incentives to modernize unemployment insurance, and targeted state funding to prevent cuts in Medicaid, the Recovery Act addresses many issues that affect women’s economic well-being. It is important that these efforts be tracked to see that they are reaching women.
Challenges for Monitoring the Recovery Act Impacts
To understand the impact of the Recovery Act, we must know:
* What jobs are created, who is getting them, and is it a good job?
* Who benefits from infrastructure projects?
* How can the government design the programs and implement them to accomplish the goal?
Currently, there is no good data set to answer the questions above. This demonstrates a need for better government data collection.
Not all Recovery Act funding will be reported on. No reporting is required for allocations to fund entitlements (Medicaid, Social Security, student financial aid) and tax expenditures (Making Work Pay tax credit, COBRA extension, tax incentives for businesses). Furthermore, the government only requires prime recipients (e.g., the State of Florida) and sub-recipients (e.g., the City of Miami) to submit a report. The ultimate recipient (e.g., a construction company) that does the actual hiring and thus creates jobs is NOT required to submit a report, although some advocacy organizations are pressuring ultimate recipients to submit reports anyway. The Advancement Project estimates, therefore, that 65.1% of all recovery funds are not subject to recipient reporting.xiv
The ultimate OMB guidance memorandum released in June developed a reporting framework.xv This framework is deficient in several ways:xvi
1. The words “race” and “gender” appear nowhere in the memorandum; therefore, ARRA fund recipients are not required to track and report data on either category.
2. Although geographical data are tracked by recipient, recipients are not required to track employee-level data.
3. The memorandum does not require recipients to track the portion of contracts that are awarded to disadvantaged business enterprises.
Failing to track employee-level data by race, gender, and geography will make it very difficult to determine whether ARRA funds are reaching marginalized communities and, more broadly, whether the economic recovery is truly a recovery for all Americans.
The Kirwan Institute. How Fair is Florida - Recession, Recovery, Equity and Opportunity in Floridaxvii
* The two-year study, advocacy and organizing campaign will include quantitative tracking of stimulus dollars in four Florida metropolitan areas through a lens of racial equity, and a qualitative look at affected communities’ experiences with stimulus spending.
* The current report looks at the intersection of race and access to opportunity in Florida, and provides an early look at how stimulus spending is impacting Black and Latino urban communities in four Florida metropolitan areas. Subsequent reports will be released quarterly and will examine specific areas of stimulus spending such as jobs, housing, health and education and their impact on Black and Latino communities in more detail.
* Low-opportunity areas have been hardest hit by the recession.
o For example unemployment in Miami Gardens jumped from 8-9% before the recession to 16% this August.
o From 2004 to 2006, nearly half of all loans in very low opportunity areas were high-cost loans, compared with just over 20% of loans in very high opportunity areas.
o Foreclosures represent a massive loss of wealth for the Black community, especially in an area such as Miami?Gardens that had a 73% homeownership rate in 2007.
* Out of all the federal contracts awarded to Florida-based companies only 1.9% went to Black-owned firms, only 6% to Hispanic-owned firms, and 1.6% to women-owned firms.
Applied Research Center. Race and Recession - How Inequity Rigged the Economy and How to Change the Rulesxviii
* Through extensive interviews with dozens of individuals around the country and data analysis, this report shows that people of color continue to face housing discrimination that builds upon that of the past, are relegated to precarious and low-wage jobs, and regularly confront persistent barriers to opportunity.
* Communities of color on the whole, relative to whites, face higher rates of poverty, are less likely to have healthcare, and consistently face recessionary levels of unemployment and underemployment.
Applied Research Center (ARC). Creating Race and Gender Equity in L.A.’s Green Economy.xix
* The great recession is having disproportionate impacts on people of color and single mothers, and recovery has been quite uneven.
* ARC examined L.A. as a case study. The researchers found that there were two L.A.s: poor L.A. and rich L.A. Poor L.A. is comprised mostly of people of color where one in five people live in poverty. Poor L.A. has received $244.43/person in Recovery funds. On the other hand, rich L.A. has received $966.20/person in Recovery funds. Rich L.A. is comprised mostly of white people and only about 10% live in poverty.
Project Design and Potential Action Steps
* Collaborative project with Member Centers in key states (Illinois, California, New York, Michigan, Tennessee, DC metro area are some possibilities).
* Produce a series of case studies that monitor indicators on issues like medical care, housing, childcare, education, and green jobs through a multiple methodology report, combining qualitative and quantitative data. This series of case studies would help generate data from different regions around the nation and provide a picture of how the recovery is impact low-income women of color and their families.
* Work with the government at all levels, both by providing guidance on equality metrics, and analyzing the reach and impact of recovery efforts including job creation and gender disaggregated impact.
* Provide recommendations to policymakers on what individual states may need, and get the Administration to pay attention to the continuing challenges faced by poor women of color.
* Identify donors and partners and organize a conference with relevant experts and stakeholders.
i National Women’s Law Center. 2009 February 13. “How the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act Address Women’s Needs.” Available at http://www.nwlc.org/pdf/Conference%20Agr't%20Fact%20Sheet%2002-13-09.pdf .
iii Romer, Christina and Jared Bernstein. 2009 January 9. The Job Impact of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The Council of Economic Advisors. Available at http://otrans.3cdn.net/ee40602f9a7d8172b8_ozm6bt5oi.pdf .
iv Mason, Nicole C. 2009. Race, Gender and the Recession: Job Creation and Employment. Women of Color Policy Network, NYU Wagner. Available at http://wagner.nyu.edu/wocpn/reports/Race_Gender_and_the_Recession_Job_Creation .
v The Advancement Project. N.d. “Ensuring Equitable Recovery: A Guide to Stimulus Jobs Data Released on October 15th.” Available at http://www.advancementproject.org/pdfs/EnsuringEquitableRecovery-Oct-15-Data.pdf .
vi The Council of Economic Advisors. 2009 September 10. The Economic Impact of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, First Quarterly Report. Available at http://www.whitehouse.gov/administration/eop/cea/Economic-Impact/ .
viii As of October 30, 2009. See http://www.recovery.gov/Pages/home.aspx .
ix LaFleur, Jennifer and Michael Grabell. 2009 February 19. “Stimulus Infastructure Funding Short-Changes States with High Unemployment.” From ProPublica, available at http://www.propublica.org/special/stimulus-unemployment-chart-and-map .
x Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity. 2009 October 26. “Recovery Act Funds Reaching Limited Number of Minority-Owned Businesses.” Press Release. Available at http://4909e99d35cada63e7f757471b7243be73e53e14.gripelements.com/NewsRelease/2009_1026_arra_fund_dist_minorities_and_race.pdf .
xi Angel, Ronald J., Laura Lein, and Jane Henrici. 2006. Poor Families in America’s Health Care Crisis. New York: Cambridge University Press.
xii Lein, Laura and Deanna T. Schexnayder. 2007. Life After Welfare: Reform and the Persistence of Poverty. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press.
xiii Terrell, Rebecca L., Sarai Chisala, and Lynda M. Sagrestano. 2009 August 28. How Can the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Program Better Serve Tennessee’s Single Mothers? Women’s Economic Security Campaign Policy Brief Series. Commissioned by the Women’s Foundation for a Greater Memphis. Prepared by The Center for Research on Women at The University of Memphis. Available at http://www.memphis.edu/crow/pdfs/Families_First_-_WESC_Policy_Brief_8-28-2009_Revised_9-9-09.pdf .
xiv The Advancement Project. N.d. “Ensuring Equitable Recovery: A Guide to Stimulus Jobs Data Released on October 15th.” Available at http://www.advancementproject.org/pdfs/EnsuringEquitableRecovery-Oct-15-Data.pdf .
xv The Office of Management and Budget. 2009 June 22. Memorandum for the Heads of Departments and Agencies. Implementing Guidance for the Reports on Use of Funds Pursuant to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Available at http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/assets/memoranda_fy2009/m09-21.pdf .
xvi See FairRecovery.org
xvii Benford, Hashim, Jason Reece, Emily Eisenhauer, and Matthew Martin. October 2009. How Fair is Florida? Recession, Recovery, Equity and Opportunity in Florida. From the Research Institute on Social & Economic Policy, Miami Workers Center, and The Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity. Available at http://fairrecovery.org/fl2.pdf .
xviii Applied Research Center. May 2009. Race and Recession: How Inequity Rigged the Economy and How to Change the Rules. Available at http://arc.org/downloads/2009_race_recession_0909.pdf .
xix As presented on the September 30, 2009 Opportunity Agenda-hosted tele-briefing “Working for an Equitable Economic Recovery.”