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SACRAMENTO – California women, and especially women of color in the Central Valley, face persistent barriers to accessing economic security, physical and mental health care, and representation in elected positions that greatly improve their lives, the well-being of their families and communities, and the state’s economy, according to a new resource from the California Budget & Policy Center.

The Budget Center released its updated California Women’s Well-Being Index, an interactive online tool that provides a multifaceted statewide look and breakdown by all 58 California counties of how women are doing in their communities. The Index pulls together an array of measures for women and shares data by race and ethnicity, including health, personal safety, employment and earnings, economic security, and political empowerment data.

One constant – women living in the Central Valley fare worse compared to women in other regions of the state. Among the findings for the region encompassing Fresno, Kern, Kings, Madera, Merced, San Joaquin, Stanislaus, and Tulare counties:

  • Women’s economic security in the Central Valley lags behind women living in other parts of California. 
  • More than 1 in 5 women live in poverty in many counties in the Central Valley. In Tulare County, 23.9% of women live in poverty the highest county poverty rate for women in California. 
  • In Madera, Kern, and Fresno counties the annual cost of child care for two children is more than 90% of the typical single mother’s income (98.7%, 94.0%, and 91.6%, respectively). 
  • Across California, women fill just 27% of seats on County Boards of Supervisors, but in Fresno, Madera, and Kings county there aren’t any women on the County Board of Supervisors. There aren’t any counties in the Central Valley where women fill more than 20% of the seats on the County Board of Supervisors. (Data are as of December 2019.)
  • Mariposa, Merced, and Kings counties are in the bottom 10 counties in California regarding the share of women receiving adequate prenatal care (69.3%, 65.2%, and 69.1%, respectively). Conversely, Fresno County has the highest share of women in the state receiving adequate prenatal care (88%).
  • In 6 of the 9 Central Valley counties, women’s turnout to vote in the 2018 General Election ranked in the bottom 10 for all counties in California (Fresno, Kern, Kings, Madera, Merced, and Tulare counties). 

“What we see again and again is gender and racial discrimination are hurting California women even with statewide policy advances in recent years such as expanded paid family leave and funding for child care that are particularly important for women,” said Kristin Schumacher, creator of the California Women’s Well-Being Index and Senior Policy Analyst with the California Budget & Policy Center. “The data and information in the Budget Center’s new Index by race, ethnicity, county, and our own stories show that lacking access to quality health care and child care, not having financial resources to turn to in crisis, and still being kept out of decision-making at many levels of government women are not receiving the support and investment we need to thrive in California.” 

A snapshot of statewide data and findings that can be found in the Index:

California women lack access to health care. 

  • 1 in 10 women in California do not have health insurance. 
  • 17% of Latinx women do not have health insurance compared to just 5.6% of white women.

California women are blocked from earning a living wage or affording the cost of living.

  • Nearly 4 in 10 women in California earn low wages. 
  • More than half of Latinx women earn low wages (52.6%) – nearly double the rate for white women in California (27.5%). 
  • The median earnings for Latinx women working full-time, year-round were just 42 cents for every dollar earned by white men in California. 

California women are kept out of decisions about their lives.

  • Overall, women make up just 32% of the seats in the California Senate and Assembly. 
  • In 22 counties, women are not represented by women in any of the state Assembly or Senate seats for the county. 

The Index is being released when local, state, and federal leaders must consider policy and budget investments for people and communities, and how to support millions of Californians who have lost jobs and income, cannot safely return to work, do not have access to child care, and are supporting children in distance learning. A recent report by the Budget Center found at the worst point of the recession so far, 1 in 4 women were out of work and the unemployment rate reached 20% or more for Asian, Black, Latinx, and other Californians of color. Meanwhile, state leaders have yet to propose revenue or borrowing policy proposals to adequately address the ongoing needs of the state, local communities, and Californians.

About the Budget Center’s California Women’s Well-Being Index: The Women’s Well-Being Index is a multifaceted, composite measure that consists of five “dimensions”: Health, Personal Safety, Employment & Earnings, Economic Security, and Political Empowerment. Each dimension is composed of six indicators that have been standardized and combined to create dimension scores, on a scale from zero to 100, for each of California’s 58 counties. The five dimension scores have been combined to create an overall Women’s Well-Being Index score for each county.


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