Resource

Mississippi is Shortchanging Women

Too many employers and policymakers are shortchanging Mississippi women, and as a result, women and their families are struggling just to make ends meet. Mississippi women and their families know it shouldn’t be this way. Everyone should be able to earn a decent living and obtain health care. But, when women make less because of unfair public policies and discriminatory employment practices, they and their families suffer.

Mississippi women make up nearly half of the overall workforce and are the primary breadwinners in the majority (53.5 percent) of Mississippi families—the highest rate of any state. And in nearly another quarter (24.9 percent) of Mississippi families, they are co-breadwinners. Despite the importance of women to the economic security of Mississippi families, women make up 59.8 percent of those in the workforce currently living below the poverty line in Mississippi.

Mississippi is among the states with the fewest protections in place to support the economic security, opportunity, and equal treatment of women. As a result:

  • Mississippi has one of the largest gender wage gaps in the country. Typically women are making just 75 cents for every dollar paid to men.
  • Mississippi has the highest poverty rate for women in the nation. 20.8 percent of women in Mississippi live in poverty. The national figure is 12.8 percent.
  • Mississippi has one of the highest uninsurance rates for women in the nation. 16 percent of women aged 18-64 are uninsured compared to 10.6 percent nationally.
  • Mississippi ranks last in the country for women’s and children’s health outcomes.

Mississippi’s Wage Gap Is Among the Worst in the Country Because of Unfair Workplace Policies and Discriminatory Workplace Practices.

  • A woman in Mississippi working full time, year round typically makes just 75 cents for every dollar paid to men.
  • And the wage gap is even wider for women of color. Black and Latina women are paid just 56 cents for every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men. And Native women are paid just 54 cents for every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men.
  • The typical amount a Mississippi woman loses annually to the wage gap could pay for 14 months of rent at $728 per month, 27 months of child care for a four-year-old at $379.66 per month, or 23 months of health insurance premiums at $450.66 per month.
  • Over the course of a 40-year career, women overall in Mississippi stand to lose $415,560 to the wage gap. For Black and Latina women it’s about twice that amount—they could lose well over $800,000 over their careers.
  • Policy Solution: Mississippi is one of only two states with no equal pay law; Mississippi should urgently implement strong protections against pay discrimination to ensure women are paid fairly.

Mississippi Has the Highest Share of Women in the Minimum Wage Workforce in the Nation.

  • About three-quarters of minimum wage earners ($7.25/hr) in Mississippi are women, the highest share in the United States, and nearly 7 in 10 tipped workers in Mississippi—for whom the tipped minimum cash wage is just $2.13/hr—are women.
  • Working in a low-wage job not only means that women may struggle to put food on the table or afford child care, they are also more likely to be subject to unpredictable work schedules, and are more likely to lack paid family, medical, and sick leave.
  • Policy Solution: Raising the minimum wage and ensuring that tipped workers receive at least the regular minimum wage before tips would go a long way towards closing Mississippi’s wage gap and helping women and families succeed.

Mississippi Makes Health Care Inaccessible to Too Many Women.

  • 16 percent of women in Mississippi are uninsured. That number is even higher for women of reproductive age, 17.2 percent of whom are uninsured.
  • 19.7 percent of Mississippi women reported not receiving health care at some point in the last year due to cost, compared to 13.3 percent nationally. Only Texas and Florida had higher rates.
  • Policy Solution: Mississippi should ensure that every woman has access to affordable, quality health care by taking advantage of available federal funding to expand Medicaid and by expanding access to comprehensive reproductive healthcare, including birth control, abortion, and prenatal care.

Child Care Costs and Workplace Practices and Policies Set Mississippi Parents Up to Fail.

  • A single parent in Mississippi earning the median income would have to pay 27.2 percent of her income to afford the average cost of center care for an infant. For two children, it would require over half of a single parent’s income to pay for center care for an infant and a four-year-old.
  • And it is difficult for families to get help with these costs—21,050 Mississippi children are on the waiting list for child care assistance.
  • Mississippi lacks laws that ensure women receive paid family leave, predictable and stable work schedules, or reasonable workplace accommodations for pregnancy-related limitations.
  • The high cost of child care and lack of workplace policies that support caregivers make it less likely that women with caregiving responsibilities are able to stay in the workforce. Time out of work negatively impacts mothers’ wages. And for mothers working in low-wage jobs, the lack of caregiving supports can make it impossible to make ends meet.
  • Policy Solution: To enable women to continue working and caring for their families, Mississippi urgently needs to increase funding for child care assistance so more families can be served and implement laws that provide for paid family and medical leave and predictable work schedules, and that protect workers from pregnancy discrimination.

It's time for change, and we must act now. Time's up.