Assemblymember Mariko Yamada, Chair of the Assembly Committee on Aging and Long-Term Care, and Assemblymember Jim Beall, Chair of the Assembly Committee on Human Services, held a joint hearing in Los Angeles to examine the economic challenges facing older women. The December 9th hearing covered various topics including the life-long gender wage gap, historical gender discrimination, and longer life-spans that can threaten older women's fiscal well-being and retirement.
"Women live longer, make less, and serve as primary caregivers--from cradle-to-crypt--throughout the life cycle," said Assemblymember Yamada. "Amidst calls for pension reform, let's be clear about the feminization of poverty, and the need for policymakers to support programs and services that support working women and families in their golden years."
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, women only earn 77 cents for every dollar that men earn throughout their lives. In addition, many women must shoulder the burdens of family caregiving at enormous personal costs. On average, women caring for their elderly parents lose an average of $324,000 in wages and benefits over a lifetime compared to $283,700 for men in the same situation. In a study by the Division of Economic Research in the Social Security Administration, women are also less likely to receive pensions, and generally have lower financial net worth. According to the study, only 30 percent of women 65 or older receive pensions compared to 48% of men. On average, female households aged 65 or older have a median net worth of $9,560 (excluding equity in their home) compared to men, whose median net worth totals $12,927. These statistics present a troubling snapshot of the inequities still facing women in their golden years.
"Mature women make up the backbone of this state in so many critical and undervalued ways. As lawmakers, we must do our part and make smarter policy decisions to help working women," Assemblymember Beall said. "Based on expert testimony and research, we will be presenting recommendations and guiding principles to assist lawmakers not only in this budget cycle but beyond."
The hearing included a range of experts on women, aging, and economics, such as Jenny Chung Mejia from the Insight Center on Community Economic Development Donna Addkison from Wider Opportunities for Women, Jean Ross from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, and Dr. Caroline Cicero, an expert gerontologist from Pepperdine University.