Research is a critical component to AWF’s mission because it gives us a deeper understanding of the issues impacting women and girls in our community. We use the information obtained from our research to direct strategies and to help our nonprofit partners and the community work more effectively.
Economic empowerment is the ability for people not only to control their economic situation, but also to improve their economic status. Women experiencing poverty often face multiple barriers that prevent them from achieving economic empowerment. As noted by several experts interviewed for AWF’s proprietary research Breaking the Cycle of Generational Poverty in Metro Atlanta, one of the most significant foundational issues impacting low-income women is education. Having a college degree is an important resource in the job market. Equally important is informal education—teaching women their own self-worth and the life skills they need in order to succeed, such as financial literacy, life planning, and decision-making. Higher education is crucial for economic well-being and opportunity.
Assets are also essential to the economic security of all women. The Center for Community Economic Development found that the median net worth for single African American and Hispanic women is $100 and $120, respectively. Assets include tangible and intangible resources such as cash savings, a college education, or a home. Without assets, families may be able to survive day-to-day, but will not be able to cope with a financial emergency, save for their children, or invest in a better future. The ability to earn and accumulate assets determines whether families can leave poverty behind and achieve economic security.
The other major foundational issue for achieving economic empowerment is employment. Employment is perhaps the most obvious path to success—if a woman can find a well-paying, stable career, she will be able to care for her children and set them on a better path.
Women’s Mental Health & Well-being
Experts interviewed for AWF’s proprietary research Breaking the Cycle of Generational Poverty in Metro Atlanta stated that mental health is one of the most important and most overlooked areas where women in generational poverty need help. The nearly quarter of a million women impacted by poverty in our five-county service area often neglect their own health and that of their children because of all of the other struggles they face in their daily lives. The lives of women in generational poverty are filled with many challenges, often compounding each other. These women experience stress, grief, and depression without the resources or networks in place to manage these strong emotions appropriately and healthfully.
"One of the most consistently replicated findings in the social sciences has been the negative relationship of socioeconomic status with mental illness: the lower the socioeconomic status of an individual, the higher the risk of mental illness" (Hudson 2005, 1). Additionally, multiple associations exist between mental health conditions and chronic conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, and obesity (Chapman 2005). These chronic conditions also occur frequently when poverty is a factor (Freid, Bernstein, Bush 2012) It is AWF’s role to serve as an educator, funder, and convener on critical issues such as how mental health impacts women in our community. Women impacted by poverty are twice as likely to suffer from mental illness. Without access to the services needed, these women are unable to accomplish the goals they are trying to achieve to become economically self-sufficient.
Women in Georgia have made considerable advances in recent years but still face inequities that often prevent them from reaching their full potential. Workforce Development is an approach intended to enhance economic stability by focusing on the worker's marketability. A well-educated, highly skilled workforce is critical to a strong and healthy community. A consensus has developed among economists and policy analysts on the increased importance that workforce skills play in explaining the labor market problems of the disadvantaged. The lack of skills and educational credentials among disadvantaged racial and ethnic minorities and the poor contributes to their low employment and earnings and inhibits their ability to advance in the labor market. Since the 2004 Status of Women in the United States report was published, the gender wage gap in Georgia has narrowed, a higher percentage of women have bachelor’s degrees, and women are more likely to work in managerial or professional occupations. Yet, as in all other states, women in Georgia are more likely to live in poverty.
In 2017, AWF launched the Women Veterans Collaborative Grant Initiative. Unfortunately, veterans, especially those under age 25, are more likely to be unemployed than their non-veteran peers. Even in an improving job market, veterans often face a number of hurdles in transitioning into civilian life and finding work. As they face the prospect of not being able to put food on the table, these obstacles will become even more daunting unless they receive help. Obstacles such as traumatic brain injuries, mental health disorders, substance abuse issues, homelessness, and physical injuries limit veterans' chances for success upon returning home. While any one of these issues can be difficult to overcome, veterans typically face a multiplicity of these challenges, which can significantly reduce their chances of returning to the normal functions of daily civilian living. Even if a veteran is fortunate enough not to have any of these significant barriers after they leave service, they still face the genuine challenge of translating the work experience they gained in the military into the civilian world. Women veterans are the fastest-growing demographic of homeless veterans in America today.
ISSUE AREA REPORTS
Child Care Assistance: Georgia’s Opportunity to Bolster Working Families & The Economy
In 2015, The Atlanta Women’s Foundation partnered with Georgia Budget and Policy Institute to develop a report that makes the economic case that Georgia should increase the amount of child care subsidies to help women work and the explains long-term economic benefit to the state of Georgia. Additional investment in child care assistance strengthens today’s Georgia workforce. It helps Georgia’s low-income working parents become better workers and higher wage earners. It also helps unemployed parents join the ranks of the employed. Nearly four in ten of Georgia’s working families with children are low income families. A preponderance of research shows child care assistance can help these families contribute more to the workforce and to their own finances by enabling parents to:
- Work with fewer child care-related disruptions, such as missed days, schedule changes, and lost overtime hours. These interruptions cost U.S. businesses an estimated $3 billion each year.
- Work more hours and stay employed longer.
- Earn more income to support the family.
- Stay employed at higher rates.
Breaking the Cycle of Generational Poverty in Metro Atlanta
The Atlanta Women’s Foundation undertook a proprietary research project to learn more about how women and girls experience poverty in our five-county service area. The results of this research have deepened AWF’s understanding of the issues impacting women and girls in our community. We will be using that information to direct our future activities and to help our nonprofit partners and the community work more effectively.