Panel: Policy Innovations for Meeting the Needs of Female Workers in the Diverse U.S. Economy
(Poverty and Income Policy)

Thursday, November 7, 2019: 8:30 AM-10:00 AM
I.M Pei Tower: Terrace Level, Columbine (Sheraton Denver Downtown)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Organizer:  Leslie Hodges, University of Wisconsin
Panel Chair:  Yulya Truskinovsky, Harvard University
Discussants:  Alix Gould-Werth, Washington Center for Equitable Growth and Lewis H. Warren, U.S. Census Bureau

There are over 55 million female workers in the increasingly diverse U.S. labor force (BLS, 2019). Many of these female workers face unique challenges, such as balancing work and family. Female workers are more likely to leave their jobs for compelling family reasons and they are more likely to experience economic insecurity due to employment interruptions (Baxter et al. 2014; Lee & Tang, 2015). In light of these challenges, this panel brings together a diverse group of papers that evaluate a variety of policy solutions for meeting the needs of female workers in the modern U.S. economy.

The first study focuses on the persistence of widespread gender and racial segregation in the American labor market. Despite changes in educational and occupational attainment for female workers and non-white workers over decades, occupational segregation remains an important contributor to social and economic inequality. The authors use an innovative analytic approach to analyze detailed data on the characteristics of nearly one thousand occupations to distinguish voluntary and involuntary occupational segregation and measure trade-offs between public policies promoting occupational integration and those promoting enhanced incomes for women and racial minorities.

Papers two and three focus on the extent to which changes to the unemployment insurance program following the Unemployment Insurance Modernization Act (UIMA) passed in 2009 help the UI program to meet the needs of female workers who become unemployed. Paper two documents how differences in male and female workers’ employment patterns and earnings contribute to gender gaps in eligibility for UI benefits and examines the extent to which UI modernization policies, including states' adoptions of alternative base periods and expansions of eligibility to part-time workers, reduce these gaps. Paper three focuses on whether UI modernizations increased UI receipt among unemployed family caregivers and whether these effects differ by gender.

Together these paper will inform future policy reforms intended to improve gender equity in the US labor market and address the unique challenges faced by female workers in the labor market, particularly those related to occupational choice and work-family conflicts. The discussants will connect these papers to research on employment, economic change, and economic well-being and discuss their implications for UI and employment policy.

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