Growing gender inequality is bad news for Kansas’ economic future – Pratt Tribune

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By Alexandra Middlewood, PhD Assistant Professor of Political Science at Wichita State University.

United Women’s Empowerment (United WE), a Kansas City-based nonprofit, and the Institute for Policy and Social Research at the University of Kansas released a report earlier this month showing that inequality between gender has increased in our state since 2016.

Labor supply and female employment have been heavily impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic over the past two years. Increased caregiving responsibilities and the closure of in-person schools and daycares have forced many female caregivers out of the workforce.

Additionally, Kansas women are more likely to work in industries that have seen layoffs due to the pandemic.

Nationally, current female employment numbers reflect those from 1987 according to the US Department of Labor – regressing on 30 years of progress since March 2020

Additionally, the gender pay gap has widened in Kansas over the past five years. According to the United WE and KU report, on average, women in Kansas earn 78 cents for every dollar earned by men in Kansas, though this gap varies by state – in some rural areas it drops to 51 cents for every dollar. The national average is 82 cents on the dollar.

The result is an $11,000 difference in median earnings between women and men in Kansas. Additionally, women in Kansas earn less, regardless of their level of education and where they live.

Poverty disproportionately affects women and children due to the lower incomes of women and single-parent families.

Kansas officials lamented the state’s struggle to attract young people, a demographic needed by the state’s economy. If the state wants to keep young people here and encourage others to settle in Kansas, it needs to address these issues.

Young people are leaving Kansas in droves, especially rural areas of the state.

Last year, a Kansas Sampler Foundation and Kansas Office of Prosperity survey found young people were leaving because of lack of child care, internet access and housing. State resistance to change on social issues certainly did not help either.

Access to childcare services is an issue for both urban and rural Kansans. 104 of the state’s 105 counties have demand for child care greater than availability. The supply and demand problem is driving up child care costs and keeping many women out of the labor force.

According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, child care is affordable if it costs no more than 7% of family income.

However, in Kansas, approximately 29% of a working mother’s salary is spent on child care costs alone, making Kansas child care costs as a percentage of salary one of the highest in the world. country.

Child care costs in our state exceed full-time tuition at a public university, and child care costs for children under age four are roughly equal to full-time tuition. full at a public university.

The United WE and KU report highlights economic research that indicates women are drawn into the workforce by higher wages and lower childcare costs. The report concludes that “Kansas has the ingredients to grow the economy, but alternative policies that facilitate the empowerment of Kansas women and the growth of the Kansas economy should be implemented.”

Failure to do so will result in a continued downward trend in population, inevitably aggravating the state’s fiscal problems and making it increasingly difficult for the state government to provide basic services, especially in areas rural.

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