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Study: Young US women facing decline in well-being

  • Women sing along as thousands pack the streets for the Women’s March on Washington rally in on Jan. 21. tns file photo



Los Angeles Times
Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Young American women are poorer than their mothers and grandmothers were when they were young, more likely to commit suicide and be shut out of high-paying tech jobs — an overall demise in well-being since the baby boom generation.

Those are the findings in a new report by the Population Reference Bureau, a nonprofit that looks at population and other development issues. It found that social and structural barriers continue to obstruct the advancement of female members of Generation X and millennials.

For experts working on women’s issues, the report’s conclusions came as no surprise.

“We have been pushed back, there’s no question,” said Terry O’Neill, president of the National Organization for Women. “Younger women are really feeling the effects of ... a 30-year march to dismantle government agencies, to dismantle government protections, all in the name of free markets.”

The report used 14 measures to assess “well-being” — such as earning capacity, education and health — to calculate the magnitude of the change between the status of young women today relative to women in their mothers’ and grandmothers’ generations when they were the same age.

“We expected to see that there would be certain subgroups of women that would be doing much worse than others, but we were surprised to find that women overall were doing worse than the previous generation,” said Mark Mather, associate vice president of U.S. programs at Population Reference Bureau and co-author of the report.

Members of the baby boom generation, who were born between 1946 and 1964, saw their well-being increase by 66 percent over their World War II counterparts, but the improvements did not continue for Generation X women, born between 1965 and 1981. They experienced a 2 percent gain in well-being relative to the baby boomers, while millennial women, born between 1982 and 2002, experienced a 1 percent decline in well-being, according to the report.

Improvements in young women’s economic security began to stagnate during the mid-1990s, and their struggles have continued into the millennial generation, particularly among women without college degrees, the report said.

In addition to health, education and earning capacity, the Population Reference Bureau considered other measures of well-being, including teen birth and maternal mortality rates, the prevalence of cigarette smoking and incarceration rate.

The eroding social safety net, violence against women, unequal pay — the Bureau of Labor Statistics put the median weekly earnings of full-time working men at $895 in 2015 compared to $726 for women — were other factors hindering the overall well-being of young women, according to the report.

The report found that the proportion of women aged 30 to 34 years old living in poverty had increased to around 17 percent for the millennial generation, up from 12 percent for Generation X females. While Generation X women comprised 1 in 4 workers in high-paying STEM occupations, the statistic dropped to 1 in 5 for millennial females, according to the report.