Well, it’s Moms’ Equal Pay Day again. All the way in September. That’s right – a typical mother would have to work nine additional months into 2022 just to be paid what fathers made in 2021. And wow, has it been a tough nine months for moms in the United States.
First on the never-ending list of things moms must think about: the job market. Overall, it’s had a strong recovery compared to the beginning of the pandemic. But data show that moms of young children – who experienced some of the sharpest disruptions – are still lagging behind. Black and Latina moms, who faced child care and school disruptions while also being more likely to work in pandemic-affected jobs, have had an especially difficult recovery.
One of the biggest drivers of the wage gap for moms is the impact that having and caring for children has on their careers, especially in a society that offers little support and a culture that still assumes caregiving is primarily women’s work. In previous generations, moms on average have been able to recover some of that gap over time – but the long-term effects of unprecedented pandemic disruptions remain to be seen.
That brings us to number two on the list: In the last nine months, Congress managed to pass two major pieces of economic legislation – the CHIPS Act and the Inflation Reduction Act – but failed to make major investments in the care economy in either one. No paid leave. No paid sick days. No investments in home- and community-based services. Nothing to make child care more affordable or rebuild the care workforce.
The unfinished business of care policy means that moms risk missing out on a lot of great new jobs in green energy and rebuilding physical infrastructure; it’s hard to retrain or apply for jobs building solar panels without paid leave or toddler care.
But one of the toughest things many moms (and anyone who cares about them) are thinking about right now has to be the overturning of Roe v. Wade in July – which opened the door to states enacting unconscionable restrictions on abortion, and put a target on rights to contraception and marriage equality. The persistent motherhood wage gap points to the fact that the decision about whether to have a child continues to have enormous consequences on the economic lives, as well as health, of anyone who can become pregnant.
More than 36 million women of reproductive age – including 15.8 million who have children at home – along with (at minimum) hundreds of thousands of transgender and nonbinary people live in states that have or are likely to ban abortion. That includes disproportionate shares of Black and Native American women and millions of Latina and Asian American and Pacific Islander women. Without the freedom to decide whether, when and in what circumstances to have a child, their ability to participate fully and equitably in our economy and society as a whole is threatened.
That’s a lot in nine months. But we know moms aren’t letting it keep them down – even while they’re still working to catch up to last year’s dads’ pay. Moms and the people who care about them have pitched in to help win paid leave programs in Maryland and Delaware. They fought to defend abortion rights in Kansas‘ state constitution — and won. And they’re going to keep up the pressure on Congress to put caregiving at the center of policy. Follow us to stay up-to-date on the fight.