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Influence of single women on the economy grows

All eyes are on the economy, as the Fed raised interest rates for the ninth consecutive time today. Overall unemployment is low at 3.4%. Currently, there are two job openings for every worker who is unemployed and seeking work. Another interesting facet of the current economy is the role of single women in the workforce.

According to the Census Bureau, 52% of all adult women in the United States are unmarried. That’s the highest this number has ever been, and it represents a significant change in the characteristics of the economy. The proportion of single women in the workforce is increasing, in part because the overall labor participation rate is decreasing. In the past decade, the number of single women in the workforce has increased by 20%.

Never-married women earn only about 92% as much as never-married men do. Despite the pay gap, single women tend to spend more on both higher education and homeownership. This demographic shift provides an opportunity for community colleges to address the needs of single women in the workforce. It also identifies a rich recruiting target, provided that the community college has programs of interest to single women.

Such programs may focus on career progression, or emerging industries. It’s also important to recognize that some single women are also mothers. Creating programs that enable women to improve their earnings and prepare them to work in flexible work environments can help ensure that these women remain in the workforce.

The availability of affordable, high-quality childcare is an essential support for single mothers. This impacts not only mothers but also their children. Children who receive high quality childcare are healthier (physically and emotionally), log larger academic gains and acquire skills faster and more reliably than children without adequate early out-of-home care.

Single women need specific higher education supports

In addition, high quality childcare supports the economy. US employers lose about $3B annually in diminished productivity among parents without reliable childcare. However, there is a substantial cost to high-quality childcare. Care for infants and toddlers is among the most expensive . Families can spend between 30% and an eye-popping 94% of its income on childcare. When I say that affordable childcare is essential, for many women, it means the difference between being able to fully participate in the economy or having to sit on the sidelines.

That’s why the loss of the Children’s Center is so devastating. At a time when the local economy needed affordable, high-quality childcare more than ever, the WCC administration decided to close the on-campus childcare facility. This decision impacts not only the student-parent, but also the children who would have received high-quality care. Additionally, the local economy suffers. People who would otherwise attend classes at WCC can’t for lack of childcare. That also means they can’t participate more fully in the local economy.

We cannot know how many people cannot attend classes at WCC due to lack of childcare, but one thing is clear: as women play a larger role in the economy, places like WCC will need to find ways to cater to their unique needs.

< i>Photo Credit: Omer Unlu , via Flickr