How the American Rescue Plan Is a Blueprint for Gender-Conscious Policymaking
March 19, 2021
By Emily DiVito
The pandemic hasn’t been fair to anyone, but it’s been especially difficult for women, who have left the workforce at much higher rates than men. Because of increased caregiving responsibilities due to closed schools and daycares, many women have also had to quit jobs or have lost opportunities and wages in the last year. Women of color in particular, who in December 2020 alone represented 100 percent of US jobs lost, have experienced the worst of the pandemic labor market.
The American Rescue Plan acknowledges those profound gender disparities and more. It provides $40 billion to alleviate the burden of childcare costs and protect women who have lost their jobs due to increased caregiving responsibilities. It also expands health care access and affordability, and provides $30 billion in housing assistance.
In simultaneously addressing this pandemic’s intersecting challenges––including lost jobs and wages, childcare needs, health-care gaps, and housing insecurity—the American Rescue Plan disproportionately benefits women and BIPOC. And that’s because the current economic system disproportionately disadvantages them.
For example, the amount US workers are paid has always been––and continues to be––gendered. For every dollar a white man makes, women are paid only 82 cents on average, and this gender wage gap leads to a difference of more than $10,000 per person per year. This disparity is even starker for Black and brown women, who are robbed of a collective $50 billion per year by what Michelle Holder calls the “double gap” of concurrent gender and racial wage disparities.
There are even gender discrepancies in the way such earnings are taxed, entrenching long-standing economic disparities between men and women. The tax code has historically––through the “marriage penalty” and “second-earner bias”––pushed women out of the workforce. And low effective tax rates on the highest-income earners and corporate owners only widen the pay disparities between executives (typically white men) and low-paid workers (typically women of color).
No single law can fully relieve the deep-rooted and unfair burdens women face in the economy.
But if we build on its momentum, the American Rescue Plan can represent a turning point—a rejection of the erroneous assumption that economic policy should be, or ever could be, gender-neutral, and a shift to policymaking that tackles systemic issues head-on.
This is the model and scale of policymaking that women need. And it’s what we deserve.