There’s a way to reduce the persistent problem of income inequality: supporting women workers. A new report from the left-leaning Center for American Progress outlines how women’s increased participation in the labor force has not only helped the economy grow, but has limited the rise of income inequality.
In other words, there is still a growing gap between the rich and the poor in the United States, but it would be worse if fewer women worked.
While income inequality rose 25 percent between 1963 and 2013, married women’s earnings also rose fivefold. If the earnings of women had not increased, CAP found, inequality would have grown more than 50 percent faster.
Brendan Duke, the policy analyst who calculated that figure, told Next America that women’s rising labor-force participation and wages have provided a “critical countervailing force against the rise of income inequality.”
More Women Working = Less Inequality
That force would grow, the report argues, if more women entered the workforce. Right now, though, government policies in the U.S. lag behind those of other industrialized nations. The U.S. is one of the only high-income nations that doesn’t guarantee workers paid sick leave and paid family leave. In places where such policies have become standard, such as in Scandinavian countries, women have become more likely to work and income inequality is lower. Between 1990 and 2010, the report notes, the U.S. dropped from 6th to 17th out of 22 countries in female labor-force participation. One reason? A relative lack of policies that facilitate both work and raising a family.