Most of us have probably thought about what we’d do if we won the lottery. From the more financially responsible options—pay off student loans, buy a house, invest in retirement accounts—to the more far-fetched (lifetime supply of chocolate, anyone?), the possibilities are endless.
This week, that dream came true for Marie Holmes, a single mother of four from North Carolina who won $188 million from Powerball.
Accounts of Holmes’ win mention that until recently, she had been working two jobs at McDonald’s and Walmart to support her children, one of whom lives with cerebral palsy. And although we don’t have in-depth details about Holmes’ job situation or family life, the basics of her story—working more than one low-wage job and struggling to take care of her children—echo the experiences of women across the country.
Millions of women like Marie Holmes are single mothers working in low wage jobs to support their families. We know that one in five families with children is headed by a single working mother. Many of those single mothers work in low-wage jobs: women represent nearly two-thirds of minimum wage workers, and 22 percent of minimum wage workers are women of color. What does that mean for these women and their families? A woman working full time, year round at the federal minimum wage earns just $14,500—more than $4,000 below the poverty line for a family of three. And all too often, workers cannot get enough hours at their jobs to make ends meet.
Many women like Holmes end up juggling more than one low-wage job just to get by. But to complicate things further, women in low-wage jobs face scheduling challenges that make it difficult to meet their responsibilities outside work. Securing reliable child care or taking care of a sick child become even more difficult when workers are assigned shifts just a day or two ahead of time or are required to be on call for long periods of time. The odds may be stacked against those who play the lottery—but with unlivable wages and unpredictable scheduling, the odds are almost equally stacked against women in low-wage jobs and their families.
Winning the lottery is a pipe dream for most of us—but it shouldn’t be the only shot at a secure future. Women workers deserve decent pay and fair work schedules. NWLC is committed to continuing the work for policies that support women like Marie Holmes and their families—because winning the lottery shouldn’t be their only hope for a better life.