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Charleston Chronicle

PRESS ROOM: Millennial Women are 37% More Likely than GenXers to Live Below the Poverty Line

CHARLESTON CHRONICLE — Millennial women came of age during the Great Recession, the rise of mass incarceration, unprecedented student debt levels, and changing workforce dynamics.

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Median Single Millennial Wealth by Race & Gender

By The Charleston Chronicle

A new report produced by Asset Funders Network (ANF), in collaboration with the Closing the Women’s Wealth Gap (CWWG) and the Insight Center for Community Economic Development reveals the current economic reality for millennial women and the primary drivers contributing to their wealth inequities.

The reportClipped Wings: Closing the Wealth Gap for Millennial Women, is the second in a series of publications that explores how the gender wealth gap impacts women.

Median Single Millennial Wealth by Race & Gender

Representing 31.5% of the female population in the U.S., millennial women do not benefit from many economic policies and systems designed by, and built to meet the needs of, men as primary breadwinners. Millennial women came of age during the Great Recession, the rise of mass incarceration, unprecedented student debt levels, and changing workforce dynamics. All of these factors contribute to the fact that millennial women are 37% more likely than Generation Xers to be living below the federal poverty line and are more likely to be underemployed or unemployed than previous generations. Additionally, immigrant millennial women, particularly Latinx, are often key financial contributors to their parents and extended families, which directly impacts their economic stability.

In addition, millennial women are part of the most diverse generation the U.S. has ever seen with 44% being women of color, making it increasingly important to address consistent racial and ethnic wealth inequities in this generation.

Clipped Wings is unique in how it provides an intersectional lens into the wealth-stripping mechanisms faced by millennial women, especially women of color,” said Joseph A. Antolín, AFN Executive Director.

Clipped Wings illustrates how millennials are faring worse than previous generations. Despite important gains in college attendance rates and career opportunities, millennial women’s wealth lags behind that of men. The median wealth of single millennial men is still 162% greater than single millennial women. Broken down further across race and ethnicity, single millennial women have less wealth than single millennial men with single White men having close to six times more wealth than single Black women.

“Millennial women are the cornerstone of our future. It’s imperative that we take time to understand the unique circumstances they are facing, and pay particular attention to the economic security of millennial women of color,” said Jhumpa Bhattacharya, author of Clipped Wings.

Clipped Wings identifies five drivers that contribute to the persistent wealth inequity between millennial women and men:

  1. Increasing student debt
  2. Continued pay inequity and occupational segregation
  3. Changing family structures
  4. Economic strain from contributing to family economic needs
  5. Mass incarceration and the criminalization of poverty

Most of these factors hit millennial women harder than men, reflecting patriarchal cultural norms and the discriminatory underpinnings of policies enacted primarily by men. Current social and economic policies and practices prioritize the needs of men and ignore the specific needs and economic roles of millennial women, particularly women of color.

Although the picture seems stark for millennial women, Clipped Wings identifies promising strategies that can help turn the tide. These tactics demonstrate how philanthropists have the opportunity to use their resources, power, and influence to be facilitators of deep social change and positively impact the future economic security of millennials and the generations to come.

While Clipped Wings confirms that more research is needed to understand the full complexity of issues facing millennial women, this new brief demonstrates how there is a unique opportunity for philanthropy to support and pioneer groundbreaking work that can lead to a more economically just and inclusive society. Clipped Wings leaves no doubt that putting women at the center of future policy decisions and reimagining how our systems operate is the way to ensure greater economic prosperity for all future generations.

This article originally appeared in the Charleston Chronicle. 

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