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August 20 2009

IWF in the News: JEC Says Women Are the Weaker Sex?

Carrie L. Lukas

The other day, I posted about how, on MSNBC, Angela Burt-Murray of Essence magazine misquoted a majority staff report by the Joint Economic Committee, leaving the impression that 64 million women had lost their health insurance during the economic downturn. While not claiming that nearly half the population of adult women are now uninsured, the JEC report is itself a little misleading, particularly in its attempts to cast women as disproportionately the victims of the economic downturn.

For example, the JEC states (on page 2), that, "Women have lost 1.6 million jobs since the recession began in December of 2007," and "The weak job market has been rough on single mothers; the number of unemployed female heads of household has increased 53 percent over the past twelve months." Undoubtedly, no segment of society has been spared from job losses, but the JEC would do better to provide a little context: In fact, their own report indicates that men have lost nearly three times as many jobs as women since the start of the recession. 

And as a publication of the JEC's minority staff shows, across all demographic groups listed in which information on both men and women are available - black, white, married - men's unemployment rate is higher than women's.

The Majority's JEC report does acknowledge that men have lost jobs too, but does so just in the context of how those losses have impacted women. As they write on page 5: "Men have lost 4.5 million jobs since the recession began, resulting in millions more wives losing their health insurance and joining the ranks of the unemployed." First, it's a little strange to note only that wives lose coverage when a husband becomes unemployed, since it's both parties that are affected. It's also unclear how a man losing his job would affect his wife's own employment status.

That's not the only statement in the report that's just plain confusing. Page 5, for example, also reads: "The combination of women's job loss and their spouse's job loss means that women are doubly vulnerable to losing their health insurance coverage in today's weak economy." What does it mean for women to be "doubly" vulnerable? You can only lose your insurance once, and it doesn't really matter if you lose it because you lost a job or your husband did - though being married potentially can serve as a safety net since, if both spouses work, they may be able to obtain coverage through the still-employed spouse.

It's okay, of course, to evaluate a system just on how it affects one segment of the society (in this case women), but it seems inappropriate not to acknowledge the ways in which women are in fact better off than men in today's economic environment. The Left often tries to justify expanding government to help women (for example, see here). Frankly, it seems a bit condescending, the implication being that we women can't take care of ourselves, but society can expect men, even if they face worse problems, to soldier on. I thought it was supposed to be Republicans who looked down on women?

Independent Women’s Forum’s mission is to improve the lives of Americans by increasing the number of women who value free markets and personal liberty. Sister organization of Independent Women’s Voice.
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