About 5 million immigrant women who are undocumented live, work, and raise their families in the United States. They are college students and businesswomen, cooks and caregivers, field workers and lettuce packers. They are raising more than 5 million children who are American citizens.

Yet just as undocumented women are compelled by their immigration status to live in the shadows, their lives, labors, and aspirations remain largely invisible in a national immigration debate which tends to take male immigrants as the norm.

Double Disadvantage,” by the Gender Equity Policy Institute (GEPI), presents key findings about undocumented women, their families, their work, and the challenges they face. The report is based on an analysis of Census and Department of Homeland Security data on immigrants in the United States as a whole and in the four states with the highest numbers of undocumented immigrants: California, Texas, Florida, and New York. (Para leer el reporte en español, click aquí)

The data shows that undocumented women face significant barriers to economic opportunity, even as they make vital contributions to the U.S. economy. Undocumented women are paid less than every other major demographic group in the United States. They have disproportionately high rates of poverty and are about 1.8 times as likely as U.S. women overall to lack health insurance.

The immigration status of all undocumented workers limits their entry into many desirable jobs and exposes them to exploitation and low pay. But in this group, women are doubly disadvantaged. Undocumented working women are typically paid significantly less than undocumented men—even when they work in the same occupation. In fact, the gender pay gap between undocumented men and women is about the same as that between men and women in the overall U.S. population.

America’s dysfunctional immigration system leaves millions of hard-working members of our communities in a precarious economic, legal, and social condition. In recognition of undocumented immigrants’ critical role in the economy and their longstanding community ties, some states, like California and New York, have enacted policies to advance immigrants’ economic participation and health. Other states, most notably Texas, have instituted policies which exacerbate their hardships.

The human consequences of these differing state policies are evident in GEPI’s findings. Undocumented women in California are the least likely to be poor. In New York, they have the highest incomes and experience the narrowest pay gaps. By contrast, undocumented women in Texas have the lowest incomes and are the most likely to live in poverty and lack health insurance.

January 2023

California’s ambitious climate goals, supported by state and federal investment, will create enormous economic opportunity over the coming decades. To meet the 2045 target of carbon neutrality, a 100% clean electric grid, and a 90% reduction in oil consumption and refinery production, the state will need to modernize its electrical grid and build storage capacity to meet increased demand for electricity. Carbon management techniques, plugging orphan wells, and the development of new energy sources such as geothermal will all come into play, providing economic opportunities to workers and businesses alike. Reducing use of polluting fossil fuels will likewise result in significant health benefits to Californians, especially to communities disproportionately burdened by polluting enterprises and proximity to freeways.

Supported by state investment and federal funding through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and the Inflation Reduction Act, the actions necessary to tackle the challenges of climate change are projected to create 4 million new jobs in the state. California is investing in developing the clean energy workforce, with an equity commitment to recruit and train historically disadvantaged and underrepresented communities.

Decarbonizing the economy and accelerating the adoption of clean energy is necessary if we are to preserve a habitable planet. Progress to a carbon neutral future is already well underway in the state. Wind and solar power are less expensive than natural gas or coal powered electricity. A large majority of Californians are concerned about climate change and support action to address its impacts.

However, as with all economic change, some industries will grow and thrive, while others will shrink, leaving some of their workers behind. Labor unions and trades groups are rightly concerned that workers are not forced to abandon skills developed over their careers and thrown into an inhospitable labor market with no support.

Thus, a key challenge in meeting California’s climate action goals is to devise a fair, equitable, and empirically-based policy to provide support for workers at risk of unemployment and income loss as many factors combine to reduce demand in state for oil and gas products. The relevant questions to answer in the design of a worker support policy funded by state dollars are:

It is vital that policymakers have accurate and unbiased information to answer these questions. Oil and gas industry rhetoric and industry funded studies have produced misleading figures on both the total number of impacted workers, as well as their average salaries. For example, a study commissioned by the Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA) and conducted by the Los Angeles Economic Development Corporation (LAEDC) reported 152,000 jobs in oil and gas as of 2017. But this study included in the total labor force employees at gas stations who, according to the study, make up 40% of the oil and gas labor force. (Eight out of ten of these workers are employed in gas stations with convenience stores attached). The study then excluded these low-paid employees from its analysis of average employee income in oil and gas industries, resulting in both inflated job numbers and inflated incomes.

To assist in scoping the elements and cost of supporting impacted workers, the Gender Equity Policy Institute undertook an analysis of the California labor force in oil and gas industries and electric power to identify the number and type of workers that could be negatively affected by the shift to a clean energy economy.

Our analysis of the most recent public data finds that oil and gas industries in California employ 45,900 workers in a wide variety of occupations in production, office work, transportation, and sales. In addition, these industries employ 13,200 executives and professionals, in positions such as chief executive, financial and investment analyst, lawyer, and engineer. Including executives and professionals, the total labor force employed in oil and gas industries in California as of 2021 is approximately 59,200 people.

We conduct a novel occupational analysis of the labor force in order to identify job opportunities for oil and gas industry workers in industries active in California. In contrast to other studies examining the job impacts of decarbonization, we analyze potential employment opportunities for oil and gas workers in all growing occupations, not solely in clean energy or green jobs.

Two-thirds of the total oil and gas labor force have promising employment opportunities outside fossil fuel industries. Our findings show that a sizable majority (56%) of current oil and gas workers are highly likely to find jobs in California in another industry in their current occupation, given demand in the broader California economy for workers with their existing skills. All executives and professionals, likewise, will easily transition into new positions in their fields of expertise.

Still, among oil and gas workers, roughly a quarter (26%) are employed in office, sales, and production occupations that are projected by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to decline nationally over the next decade. Another 18% work in core oil and gas production or extraction occupations. While these core jobs are projected to grow nationally over the next decade, California’s more rapid development of a carbon neutral economy makes it likely these jobs will contract more quickly in state.

Therefore, to be assured of finding gainful employment, many in these two groups will need to transition into another occupation. Our analysis focuses on identifying new employment opportunities in California that use at-risk workers’ existing skills and experience. For all declining occupations in oil and gas industries, there are available jobs in similar occupations in California that would allow workers to transition without the need for retraining. One in five at-risk oil and gas workers are projected to earn higher incomes in these new occupations. The remaining 80% are projected to earn lower incomes.

We estimate that there are 16,100 workers in the 2021 oil and gas labor force potentially at risk of displacement into lower-paying jobs over the remaining 22 years of the transition to a carbon neutral economy (2023 – 2045). The Findings section of the report presents a detailed explanation of our occupational and income analyses and findings.

The final sections of this report provide cost estimates and scenarios for supporting oil and gas workers at risk of displacement. We calculate the cost of supporting at-risk workers in the oil and gas labor force as of 2021, assuming 50% of these workers in declining occupations could be displaced over the next ten years (2023 – 2032).

Based on the numbers, types, and incomes of workers at risk of displacement, GEPI estimates that providing one year of income support would cost, in total, $208.2 million over the 2023 – 2032 period. Providing up to three years of income support would cost, in total, $624.6 million. Relocation support for potentially geographically displaced workers would add another $64.6 million to the ten-year cost.

In summary, assuming 50% of current at-risk oil and gas workers could be displaced over the 10-year period from 2023 – 2032, the cost to the state of California to fund income subsidies and relocation support for these impacted workers is projected to be approximately $27.3 million – $68.9 million annually.

Few are immune to California’s high cost of housing. But the burden of the housing affordability crisis falls heaviest on women—especially Black, Latina, and Native American women, single mothers, and the elderly. (Download Executive Summary)

About 10.3 million Californian adults live in housing considered unaffordable by standard measures. To rent a one-bedroom apartment at the fair market rate in California requires an income of nearly $58,000— or a wage of $28 per hour for a full-time worker. The median price of a single-family home in California, as of April 2022, was $884,890.

The Gender Equity Policy Institute, at the request of the California State Assembly Committee on Housing and Community Development, analyzed extensive data on Californians’ housing experience to examine the impact of the housing crisis on women.

In California, more than half (52%) of renters spend over 30% of their income on housing and are considered “rent burdened.” More than a quarter (26%) spend over 50% of their income and are considered “severely rent burdened.”

Women are more likely than men to be rent burdened and severely rent burdened. They are less likely to own their own homes. When they do, they are more likely to be shouldering unaffordable housing costs. They are more likely than men to have extremely low income.

As the following report documents, the greater difficulty women face in securing affordable housing is deeply intertwined with systemic gender inequality in the broader society.

The soaring cost of housing weakens California’s economy and harms most of the state’s communities. With California’s unprecedented budget surplus, the resources to put the state on a more sustainable course for housing are available. And with the state’s political and business leadership committed to finding equitable solutions to our housing crisis, the moment is ripe for adopting a gender responsive approach to housing policymaking


February 15, 2022

Nearly one million immigrant women who are undocumented live, work, and raise their families in California. They harvest, prepare, pack, and serve the food that sustains the United States. They are college students and businesswomen. They care for the young, the elderly, and the sick. They clean the offices, hotels, and homes of California businesses and families. They are mothers to upwards of 1.8 million California children.

Yet just as these women are compelled by their immigration status to live in the shadows, their lives, labors, and aspirations are rendered invisible in public debate about America’s immigration system. Forty-five percent of undocumented people in the United States are women. But when the media or politicians discuss America’s immigration challenges, the immigrants they talk about tend to be men. With men as the norm, women’s distinctive experiences and concerns are ignored.

The Gender Equity Policy Institute’s “Undocumented and Essential” presents a data-based profile of California’s undocumented women, their families, work, and economic challenges. While other institutes and researchers have published estimates on the number of undocumented people in the U.S. and how many are women and men, no others have disaggregated demographic and labor force data by gender to investigate the living conditions of undocumented women specifically.

As the following report shows, undocumented women make vital contributions to California’s economy. They have high rates of labor force participation. The industries in which they work are critical to the success and growth of the state’s $3.4 trillion economy. But undocumented women face significant barriers in their efforts to access economic opportunity—barriers that are higher than those encountered by undocumented men. Undocumented women are paid less for similar work than all other Californian workers. They have high rates of poverty and low rates of homeownership and health insurance.

Undocumented women are integral members of California’s dynamic economy, diverse communities, and vibrant cultures. As policymakers look ahead, the 2022 budget surplus provides an opportunity to uplift the families of 2.2 million undocumented Californians who make up a critical mass of the state’s workforce and help propel economic growth in the nation’s largest economy.

June 2021

The final California state budget included $3.7 billion for climate resilience. Specifically how the dollars will be spent is still under negotiation. At this pivotal moment of unprecedented budget surplus, California could invest in equitable climate action or take a wrong turn.

In negotiations between the Governor’s office and the legislature, the legislature drew their climate priorities from bills considered this session: AB-1500 and SB-45. If these bills indeed become the blueprint for climate resilience, the prospect for an equitable climate policy for California is dim.

Failing the Climate Justice Test, a report by the Gender Equity Policy Institute, finds that the proposed investments would be distributed to Californians in a radically unbalanced, unfair, and unequal way.

The proposed climate resilience funding leaves women & communities of color in California’s urban areas behind, while benefiting disproportionately white, male, rural regions.

The whitest and most male regions of California are projected to receive a windfall of investment far out of proportion to their share of the state population. At the same time, the southern California counties in the Los Angeles region, home to half of all Black and Latino Californians and nearly half of all women in California, are projected to receive a stunningly small proportion of funding. 92% of the jobs potentially created by these bills’ investments will go to men.

By nearly any measure, the investments fail the climate justice test. They fail the regional equity test. They fail the racial justice test. And they receive a failing score of 37% on the Gender Equity Policy Institute’s gender equity scale.

California has been a pioneer in climate action, innovating equitable policies to tackle the wide-ranging climate crisis. But if current proposals become the blueprint for the state’s climate resilience policy, then the needs of the many millions of Californians who are most vulnerable to climate impacts will go unmet.

New York is one of 42 states where tipped workers in the food service industry receive a subminimum wage and earn much of their income primarily from tips. Even as New York phases in a minimum wage increase to $15 per hour, under current law the tipped minimum wage will reach only $10 per hour.

The tipped minimum wage leaves many workers struggling to make ends meet. For example, women waiters in New York earn only 45 percent of the national median income—their earnings are even lower compared to New York’s relatively high median income. One out of four women waiters and bartenders fall below 150 percent of the federal poverty line.

Advocates, workers, and policy-makers have called for an end to the subminimum wage and a raise for tipped workers to the regular minimum wage. Andrew Cuomo’s resignation creates an opportunity for Governor Kathy Hochul to enact this policy for food service workers by executive order.

The Gender Equity Policy Institute conducted an analysis of the potential impacts of the policy  by gender, race, and ethnicity. The policy change received a rating of 93%, earning it recognition as a model for advancing gender equity.