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Status of Women in the South: Poverty and Opportunity

March 15th, 2016

Status of Women in the South- Poverty and Opportunity-03March is Women’s History Month, and the Hope Policy Institute is continuing its blog series that explores findings from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research report entitled Status of Women in the South. Last week, our blog highlighted some of the economic inequalities faced by women and families that make economic mobility difficult. At the beginning of the month, our blog examined some of the challenges faced by women and families in persistent poverty.

Access to postsecondary education and basic health care are integral to women’s economic security and access to opportunity. However, Mid South states, including Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Tennessee, continue to struggle to maximize investments in programs that provide economic security and access to opportunity for women.

Based on the Poverty & Opportunity Composite Index*, Arkansas and Louisiana received an average letter grade of “F” and ranked among the worst in the nation. Louisiana received a letter gradeof “D-” while Tennessee received a “D”. The information below highlights some findings related to poverty and opportunity for women in the Mid South states.

  • Access to Health Insurance. Health insurance gives women access to important health services, produces better health outcomes, and reduces out-of-pocket expenses and health care costs for families. Nationally, 85.4% of women aged 18 to 64 had health insurance in 2014. The rates for women in the Mid South are lower than the national average – Arkansas (84.3%), Louisiana (80.0%), Mississippi (80.8%), and Tennessee (84.8%). (Status of Women in the South)
  • Education. Postsecondary educational attainment is associated with higher earnings and lower rates of unemployment. Nationally, 30.2 % of women aged 25 and older have a bachelor’s degree or higher. Roughly one in five women aged 25 and older have a bachelor’s degree or higher in Arkansas (22.0%) and Mississippi (22.7%). Postsecondary educational attainment is a little higher in Louisiana (24.0%) and Tennessee (25.5%). (Status of Women in the South)
  • Women Business Owners. Business ownership provides economic security for women and their families. Nationally, 35.8% of businesses were women-owned in 2012. Louisiana and Mississippi have rates higher than the national average (36.5% and 37.9%, respectively) and rank among the best in the nation while Tennessee is on par with the national average (35.6%). Arkansas has one of the lowest shares of women-owned businesses in the South** (32.7%). (Status of Women in the South)
  • Poverty Rates. Women’s economic security is linked to their income, which includes earnings from jobs as well as earnings from investments, retirement funds, Social Security, and government benefits. Nationally, 14.6% of women aged 18 and older have incomes below the federal poverty line, compared with 11.1% of men. Among all states, women are most likely to live in poverty in Mississippi, where 21.5% of women live below the poverty line. In Louisiana, second highest in the South and 49th in the nation, 19.3% of women live below the poverty line. The poverty rate for women in Arkansas and Tennessee is higher than the national average. See chart. (Status of Women in the South)

Status of Women in the South- Poverty and Opportunity-02Although women in the Mid South have made gains in recent years, many women continue to struggle to meet their families’ basic needs and achieve greater economic security. The data underscore the need to increase women’s access to resources and supports for women in the workforce that improve the well-being of women, families, and communities alike.

Follow our #PolicyMatters blog all month as we take an in-depth look at the economic issues that women face as well as women’s progress in the Mid South. Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter to stay informed!

*A Composite Index is calculated based upon that state’s scores on component indicators; the states are then ranked from best to worst and a letter grade is assigned based on the difference between a state’s performance in that area and goals established by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research

**In the report, southern states include Alabama, Arkansas, the District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia

Status of Women in the South Blog Series

Source:

Anderson, J., Shaw, E., Childers, C., Milli, J., & DuMonthier, A. (2016). The status of women in the South. Retrieved from http://statusofwomendata.org/app/uploads/2016/02/SWSouth2.24-for-posting-online.pdf

Jessica Shappley-02

Blog, Financial Inclusion