For many American families, a living wage is out of reach: report
A new report diving into data on vital measures of health and the social determinants of health finds that women, and especially women of color, continue to experience significant pay gaps that many Americans don’t have. cannot afford child care and that many school districts may be underfunded.
The 2022 County Health Rankings report, shared in advance with ABC News, offers unique insight into thriving and how Americans are thriving — or, so to speak, surviving.
Steps like these are significant as the nation emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic and grapples with “intertwined crises of structural racism and economic exclusion” to examine how decent wages or lack thereof “can impact on a fair recovery,” the report said.
“The data reinforces what we have known for some time. People in rural and urban communities face long-standing barriers, systemic barriers – preventable barriers – that keep groups of people and places across our country from d ‘to be able to live long and well,’ Sheri Johnson, co-director of County Health Rankings & Roadmaps and director of the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute, told ABC News.
Ranking reveals ‘troubling issues’ affecting women and families with children around economic security and family support, highlighting what the pandemic has repeatedly laid bare: ‘glaring failures’ in pay equity infrastructure , childcare costs and school funding.
Equal pay is not just a “women’s issue”
Women earn just over 80 cents for every dollar men earn, on average, for the same job, according to the ranking. But that’s not all.
To earn the average white man’s salary of $61,807, an Asian woman must work an additional 34 days, according to the report.
A white woman has to work 103 more days to earn that same $62,000 salary.
The report says a black woman must work 223 days to make up this difference, while a Native American/Alaska Native woman would have to work 266 days.
A Hispanic woman would have to work 299 days to make up that wage difference.
The prolonged toll of COVID “has exposed the barriers in the workforce that prevent the full participation of women and caregivers” and “places an additional burden on low-income women and women of color, who are least likely to have employer-provided benefits,” according to the study. .
An inequitable economic security infrastructure for some weakens the whole system, Johnson said.
“There are consequences when we haven’t built community conditions for everyone to thrive,” Johnson said.
Child care costs exceed what many Americans can afford:
Across all counties, a family with two children spends an average of a quarter of their household income on child care, according to the report.
For those earning the federal hourly minimum wage of $7.25, child care costs would account for almost 90% of their annual income.
By this calculation, the average child care provider probably cannot afford their own services, which would consume more than half of their average annual income of $25,460 if they had two children.
“It’s quite striking,” Johnson said, particularly when compared to the government’s suggestion that families spend no more than 7% of their income on childcare.
The ranking reveals that during the pandemic, the lack of affordable childcare has forced parents – especially mothers – out of the workforce and has also hit childcare providers, who were disproportionately women, which has harmed the well-being of families and communities.
Marked differences in school funding between rural, urban and suburban communities
Half of all counties included in this analysis had school districts operating in deficit, according to the ranking. Among these districts, spending per student, on average, was $3,000 less than the estimated annual amount needed to support average test scores.
While schools in large urban metropolitan counties operated on average with large deficits, schools in rural counties—the majority of all U.S. counties—were overrepresented among counties with insufficient school funding.
There are “patterns of divestment” reflected in the disproportionate geographic distribution of school funding shortfalls, Johnson said.
Many counties in the western and southern United States are operating with funding shortfalls. School districts in these counties spend on average less than estimated necessary to achieve national average test scores.
Counties with higher proportions of black, Hispanic, Native American and Alaska Native populations experience significantly larger funding shortfalls than most U.S. counties, the report found. Funding gaps are particularly high in the southern black belt region.
One solution – alleviating “stress pathways” that exacerbate poor health for those already suffering, Johnson said – such as “ensuring equal pay for equal work through policies such as paid family leave, sick leave income, universal basic income, life wage laws, the expansion of the Child Tax Credit and the Earned Income Tax Credit,” the report states.
“We can expect more of the same if we do nothing,” Johnson said. “And the same is not right. It is not right, and it is not necessary.”
ABC News’ Sony Salzman contributed to this report.