Women’s Well-Being Index Shows Women in Northern California Face Significant Barriers to Accessing Health & Safety

New Budget Center Interactive Provides County Breakdowns on Gender & Racial Discrimination Women Face & Opportunities for State Policymakers to Act

SACRAMENTO – California women, including women in the northern region of the state, 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 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.

Women living in the Northern region of California face significant barriers to physical and mental health resources and are less safe compared to women in other regions of California. 

  • Women in counties in the far north and North Coast are far less likely to have health care coverage, access to health care and prenatal care, and have lower life expectancy than women in all other parts of California. 
  • Women in far north counties are more likely to experience serious psychological distress.
  • Women in counties in the far north and North Coast regions have a lower level of well-being in the Safety Dimension. 
  • In Del Norte County, the rates of interpersonal violence far outpace rates in other counties in California. 
  • The suicide rate for women is high in counties in the far north.

“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, region, 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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