Can California Women Keep Bailing the State Out?

Joe Mathews
Connecting California Columnist and Editor, Zócalo Public Square, Fellow at the Center for Social Cohesion at Arizona State University and co-author of California Crackup: How Reform Broke the Golden State and How We Can Fix It (UC Press, 2010)

If it weren’t for women, California would be in even bigger trouble.

Despite all the state’s obstacles and struggles, one big reason why we keep getting wealthier and more productive is women, and their hard work. As a new report from the California Budget & Policy Center reminds, women are working more and more. In the most recent economic expansion, the typical hours worked annually by women were higher than in previous expansions.

The question, of course, is how long can this go on? And the CBPC report suggests the state needs to do more to for its more diverse workforce. The biggest ways the state could help involve time.

First, with women working more, the share of households where all parents work has been increasing. Which makes the lack of high-quality affordable child care even more of a problem. Better child care, the report finds, would allow even more parents to enter the workforce – in other words, allowing more women to work more and make California look good. And while California’s leave policies are better than those in other states, the state has a strong interest in making them even more flexible.

California’s dependence on women also reminds us why the recent equal pay legislation is about more than fairness. It’s about boosting the pay of a big, growing, crucial piece of the workforce.

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