For some women, economic security means being able to buy a home, for others having enough money to send their kids to college or save for retirement. For Maria Luna it’s not having to worry all the time and having the luxury to buy her granddaughter a birthday gift.
At the Women’s Foundation of California, we don’t think of economic security as the opposite of poverty, especially because the official federal poverty measure is flawed. It does not take into account the high cost of living in California and is based on an outdated calculation that considers only the cost of food when measuring economic wellbeing.
According to the official poverty measure, a mother of two children is poor if she earns less than $1,627 per month. However, that same mother is not economically secure if she begins earning a few dollars more than $1,627.
We wish it were that easy.
Consider a single mother of two toddlers living in Los Angeles. On average, rent in a safe neighborhood would cost her $1,202 per month; child care for two small children $1,712; food $524; health insurance $419; transportation $600 and various personal and household items $497. Added up, her monthly expenses would total more than $5,000. That’s a far cry from the $1,627 per month threshold for measuring poverty and the lack thereof.
So, what do we mean by economic security? We mean that we want to empower women to both pull themselves out of poverty and go beyond that—reach higher. We want to put an end to women living month-to-month and paycheck-to-paycheck.
For the Women’s Foundation of California, economic security is women meeting their basic needs—a place to live, enough healthy food for the month, health insurance, transportation and quality child care—and saving something extra for emergencies, education and retirement. It’s going above and beyond the federal poverty measure, overcoming poverty once and for all and ensuring that our children never fall into it.