Advancing Equity Through Infrastructure Investment

A Race and Gender Impact Analysis of California’s Justice 40 Initiative

Key Findings

The federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), signed by President Biden in November 2021, will bring at least $45 billion to California for investments in transportation, communications, water, clean air, and other infrastructure projects. And with the Inflation Reduction Act on the verge of passage, California stands to benefit from an infusion of federal funds for climate action and drought relief.

Download Executive Summary

States have wide discretion in choosing the types and locations of projects to be funded and hence will play a key role in determining how the $1.2 trillion in federal infrastructure funds will be spent. The Biden administration’s implementation guidance urges states to invest the funds “equitably”, following its Justice40 Initiative, which calls for delivering 40 percent of the benefits of federal investments to disadvantaged communities.

Assembly Bill (AB-2419), authored by Assembly member Isaac Bryan, would write that goal into state law by mandating that 40% of the IIJA funds directly benefit communities defined as environmentally and socially disadvantaged. The Act calls for an additional 10% of the federal funds to directly benefit communities defined as low-income. The remaining half of IIJA funds could be used for infrastructure projects without restriction.

The Act also would guarantee high labor standards and foster the creation of quality jobs for underrepresented groups. The Strategic Growth Council would be charged with implementing the law. AB 2419 also establishes the Justice40 Committee, comprised of representatives from environmental justice organizations, labor, and disproportionately impacted communities, to monitor implementation and issue recommendations for equitable and sustainable infrastructure investment.

The Gender Equity Policy Institute analyzed demographic data on the communities targeted for infrastructure investment under AB 2419 to assess the likely distribution of funds by race/ethnicity, gender, and region.

Our findings show clear benefits to communities that have been disproportionately harmed by decades of discriminatory practices in infrastructure siting and building. Roughly three-quarters of those living in communities targeted for investment are Black, Latino, Asian American, or Native American. Women of color particularly stand to benefit from the targeted infrastructure investment.

AB-2419 received a rating of 94% on GEPI’s intersectional gender equity scale, indicating that, if enacted, it would powerfully advance gender and racial equity in California. By targeting infrastructure investments to historically under-served and marginalized communities, AB-2419 provides a blueprint for an equitable and transformative approach to infrastructure investment.

Gender & Housing in California

An Analysis of the Gender Impacts of California's Housing Affordability Crisis

Key Findings

August 2022

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

Recommendations

  • Target housing assistance to single parent households, elderly people living alone, and those at the very lowest income levels.
  • Dedicate increased state funding to the housing crisis.
  • Incentivize the production of affordable housing, particularly in urban areas and other population and job centers.
  • Integrate a gender-lens in housing policymaking.
  • Incorporate gender-responsive design principles in new housing development.
  • Implement a gender-responsive approach to the unique challenges faced by unhoused LGBTQ+ people and women.

Tackling the Student Debt Crisis

An analysis of proposals to increase Pell Grants and the impact on reducing student debt

Key Findings

September 2021

The average annual cost to attend a four-year public institution has nearly tripled since 1980. Following decades of rising tuition and costs for higher education, roughly 43 million Americans owe more than $1.7 trillion in student loans. Graduates take an average of 20 years to fully pay off their loans. Burdened by student debt as they enter the workforce, they often have to put off buying a home, saving for retirement, or starting a family. And those who default face a host of negative consequences.

Various policies to alleviate the student debt crisis have been proposed, and several include increasing Pell Grants, an important source of support for higher education for Americans with financial need. 

Congress’s budget reconciliation plan includes proposals to increase the amount of the Pell Grant and make community college free. Likewise, a bill before both chambers, The Pell Grant Preservation & Expansion Act of 2021, substantially increases the Pell award—doubling the maximum award to $13,000—and includes measures to encourage college attendance and stabilize the Pell Grant program overall. 

The Gender Equity Policy Institute analyzed data on past and current student demographics, college costs, and student debt to assess the impact of proposed improvements to the Pell Grant program, with particular focus on how the benefits would be distributed across gender, race, and ethnicity. 

The Institute calls attention to the way increasing Pell Grants and improving the program is appropriately responsive to the ways in which gender norms and roles impact access to higher education and the financial rewards that accrue to degree-holders. The mix of increasing the award and greater support for part-time study represents a nuanced approach to tackling the different challenges faced by women and men. People of color will see large reductions in student debt. The Act earns a score of 88% on the Gender Equity Policy Institute’s gender equity scale. 

Failing The Climate Justice Test

An analysis of projected climate resilience funding and its effects by region, race, and gender

Key Findings

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.

Capitol Injustice

An analysis of proposals to make Washington D.C. a state and its potential impacts on women and Black Americans

Key Findings

June 2021

“Taxation Without Representation” is emblazoned on every Washington D.C. license plate. It highlights that citizens of Washington D.C. are the only women and men in the United States who are deprived of self-government at the federal level but required to pay federal income taxes.

On June 22, the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs held a hearing on The Washington, D.C. Admission Act. Passage would make D.C. a state, providing it with the same representation, privileges, and authority granted to all states. 

Capitol Injustice,” a report by the Gender Equity Policy Institute, analyzed D.C.’s current anomalous political status, with a focus on its impact by gender, race, and ethnicity.

Washingtonians are the only U.S. citizens who have no Congressional representation but are subject to the Federal income tax. Across several measures of federal tax liabilities, they pay more than the residents of any other state.

In this moment of racial reckoning, in the midst of a burgeoning movement to protect the fundamental right to vote, it should not escape notice that the nation’s worst violation of civil rights falls heaviest on Black women, who make up 25% of the D.C. population. 

Considering the more than 700,000 residents deprived of voting representation at the federal level, making Washington D.C. a state would rectify one of contemporary America’s most egregious violations of democratic rights.