This Mother’s Day, millions of women can celebrate that the soaring economy makes this one of the best times to be a working mother. The tremendous economy, ample job opportunities, and the demolition of barriers to work make it possible for women to pursue careers, work for themselves, and raise families.
This contradicts a new ranking of the best and worst states for working women by WalletHub and several left-leaning organizations. They conclude that blue states are “more friendly to working moms” than red states by nearly a 2-to-1 ratio. They claim that women in red states face greater gender inequality in pay, hiring, and leadership and face greater trade-offs to working versus staying at home.
Yet, again the Left cherry-picks economic data to support their liberal agenda that rests on victimization and proposes one-size-fits-all policies that limit choice, opportunity, and flexibility for women.
Working women today have made tremendous gains and are doing better in the workforce than previous generations of women. Women in red states should not be misled to believe they have been left out of the blessings of this roaring economy.
Employment & Earnings
Economic gains for women have been widespread, and they start with an abundance of jobs. In April, the unemployment rate for adult women (20+) fell to 3.1%, its lowest rate in five decades.
Low state-level unemployment rates for women are not concentrated by party either. In 2018, the bottom five states (all red) had better or comparable unemployment rates for women in 2018 than the top five states (all blue) in the WalletHub’s ranking.
The entrance of women into the labor force has been remarkable over the past half century. Their labor force participation rates climbed from just 33% in 1950 to an all-time high of 60% in 2000. The increased participation ratehas been even steeper for women with young children (under age two) rising from 34% in 1974 to a high of 63% in 2016 (the latest year for which there is data).
Interestingly, there is significant variation among women of prime childbearing ages (25-34). In red states, labor force participation rates generally fell between the high 60s to low 70s in terms of percentages, while in blue states labor participation rates generally fell between the mid 70s to low 80s.
That may reflect stronger financial ability or personal preferences not to work. That red states have the lowest childcare costs undercuts the argument that mothers stay at home because it’s cheaper than childcare.
The choices women make about whether to work and what type of work to pursue impact how much they earn and their decisions about family duties.
Gender pay gap data are misleading because the raw averages of men’s and women’s earnings do not control for other factors that impact pay. Men work more hours each day, work more full-time jobs, more dangerous jobs, and are concentrated in majors that lead to jobs with higher pay or industries that command bigger salaries. When controlling for these and other factors, the pay gap shrinks to just a few percentage points that may or may not indicate discrimination.
In states where fewer women work, it is not surprising that any pay gap based just on earnings may seem bigger.
A tight jobs market, though, empowers women to negotiate higher salaries, more benefits, or more flexibility — that is true no matter where they live.
Leadership & Entrepreneurship
Male-female executive ratios are also supposed to be measures of gender inequality, but this is problematic. It’s based on an outdated feminist mindset that progress means women must climb the corporate ladder to gain parity. Women view advancement and opportunity today increasingly differently; women want to start their own business rather than climb someone else’s ladder to the top.
The growth in female entrepreneurs has been stunning. Women-owned businesses grew 3,000% from 1972 to 2018 and now comprise 40% of new entrepreneurs. The Trump administration is especially doing something right when 1,821 new female-owned businesses were started each day from 2017 to 2018. This is more than double the daily rates prior to the recession and during the Obama administration’s second term.
Where you live does matter. Four of the five states with the fastest growth rates of women-owned businesses from 2007 to 2018 were red: Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, and South Carolina. These are states with low taxes and business-friendly regulatory environments.
All of this good news should not overshadow the challenges that working mothers face: high childcare costs and the lack of paid parental leave. Women also face trade-offs between salary and flexibility that men do not necessarily face. However, working moms are in a better economic and negotiating position in a strong economy.
Policies such as cutting taxes and deregulating industries have supercharged our economy. As a result, women can better pursue their desired careers, negotiate the work environment that best suits their needs, or create their own opportunities. This is a future that our mothers and grandmothers only dreamed of.