Via: Dallas Morning News

By: Alexandra Skores

The state is home to over 14.6 million women and girls, more than 46 other states have in their entire population.

Alicia Mitchell of Dallas noticed a change in her 8-year-old once she got her child into an after-school program.

The mother of two said the frequent calls from school stopped. Now she’s an advocate for programs like the one where she sends her child to ensure child care is free and accessible.

“When I leave them, I feel like they’re in safe hands,” Mitchell said. “I don’t worry about leaving them with strangers or in day care.”

It’s stories like Mitchell’s that the Texas Women’s Foundation supports through grants and highlights in its research on the economic state of 14.6 million women and girls in Texas. Nearly 6 in 10 women in the state are of color.

The foundation centers its research on four pillars of women’s economic security: child care, health care and insurance, housing and education. Over the last three years, about 60% of Texas women were in households that had difficulty with expenses, according to the research.

For a woman in Texas with the median income of $41,687, up to 21% of her earnings will go toward year-round, full-time child care, the research showed. Most working women in Texas rely on free or affordable child care, with 70% having a child younger than 16 in their home.

“Caring is not just a profession,” said Dena Jackson, the foundation’s chief strategy officer, who on Thursday led a discussion on the research at Texas Woman’s University’s T. Boone Pickens Institute of Health Sciences in Dallas. “It is something that women are often expected to do without pay in a society that does not provide adequate family supports.”

Dena Jackson, chief strategy officer of Texas Women’s Foundation.
Dena Jackson, chief strategy officer of Texas Women’s Foundation.(Elías Valverde II / Staff Photographer)

Pandemic-related closures of child care centers or subsequent staffing issues affected about a third of Texas women with children younger than 5 from July to October 2021 when research data was collected.

Women’s financial stability also can be tied to accessible health care insurance. Over 2.5 million women were uninsured before the pandemic, according to the report. Texas also has over 406,000 uninsured women who are below the poverty line, but don’t qualify for Medicaid.

The foundation is monitoring the economic effects of the overturning of Roe v. Wade, too. Less than half of Texas women of reproductive age receive contraceptive or family planning services, according to the report.

The foundation created a reproductive freedom fund and hopes to raise $1.25 million by next June to address needs in areas where services are lacking. Jackson said implementing long-acting, reversible contraceptives is key to supporting women in need of care.

“When the woman finds transportation, finds the child care and drives the two hours to get to where she needs for the care, they don’t tell her to come back in two weeks,” Jackson said.

The research also concluded that housing affordability disproportionately affects women of color. One in 5 Black women and 1 in 12 Latina women in Texas have been evicted at least once as adults. One in 15 white women in Texas have been evicted.

Between July and October 2021, the report found, 37% of women renters in Texas lacked confidence that they could pay the next month’s rent.

Educational attainment also comes at a cost for women. Texas women’s debt-to-income ratio is 13% higher than men’s, according to the foundation, which backs loan forgiveness. Jackson said she thinks President Biden’s $10,000 to $20,000 forgiveness program is a start.

“Education as a road to economic security is not a guarantee, but it’s an area where policy can make a big difference,” Jackson said.

Miki Woodard, president and CEO of the Texas Women’s Foundation, said the group will share the findings with policymakers, community leaders and corporations in the state.

“It will take voices, and it will take advocates to impact the numbers that we are hearing and seeing in this report,” Woodard said.

The full report is available on the Texas Women’s Foundation website.