One year after the Supreme Court’s ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization overturned the Constitutional right to abortion enshrined in Roe v. Wade, women in the United States face numerous complex challenges in accessing reproductive healthcare, particularly in states that banned abortion after the decision.
This study reports on the state of reproductive and sexual health in California during the final years of the Roe era. Building on Gender Equity Policy Institute’s The State of Reproductive Health in the United States (January 2023), we analyze data on key reproductive health indicators—maternal mortality, teen births, and newborn deaths—and compare outcomes and trends between states grouped by reproductive healthcare access. Our objective in this state focused report is to establish a baseline on women’s reproductive and sexual health in California relative to the nation and other states.
California has excellent outcomes on measures across the entire continuum of women’s reproductive health and well-being, on which abortion care is one—albeit important—aspect. Among states publicly reporting data, California has the lowest maternal mortality rate in the U.S., less than half that even of the states that are supportive of reproductive freedom. By comparison, the maternal mortality rate in states that banned abortion in 2022 after Dobbs is nearly 5 times as high. On every indicator, women, pregnant people, and their babies have healthier outcomes in California and the other supportive states than they do in banned states.
California has been a leader in advancing women’s sexual and reproductive health for decades. After Dobbs, policymakers responded swiftly and decisively to put in place some of the nation’s strongest measures to protect reproductive freedom and prepare for the impact on California of abortion bans in other states. Voters overwhelmingly passed an amendment to the state Constitution to enshrine the right to abortion and contraception. More than 40 organizations, including sexual and reproductive health care providers, advocacy organizations, and legal and policy experts established the California Future of Abortion Council to coordinate reproductive freedom and justice efforts. Since its formation, the council has issued policy recommendations “to strengthen legal protections for consumers and abortion providers, expand the reproductive health care workforce, and ensure access to affordable care for low-income residents and communities of color.” Many of these recommendations were enacted into law in 2022 and others are pending in 2023.
The trends in California on health outcomes are largely positive. Nevertheless, California can do better. Compared to other supportive states, California ranks best only on maternal mortality; on other indicators, California ranks between 5th best and a middling 13th. Racial and ethnic disparities, common throughout the U.S. in all three groups of states (supportive, restrictive, and banned), are narrowing in California. But they remain unacceptably high.
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.
In June 2022, the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization that nothing in the United States Constitution guarantees a women’s right to abortion. Within six months of the decision, 15 states had banned abortion. More are anticipated to do so in the 2023 state legislative sessions that will commence this month.
For 50 years, abortion was a protected, albeit highly endangered, constitutional right. The supportive legal environment, plus advances in birth control, fertility treatments, and other reproductive technologies, allowed women and pregnant people autonomy and freedom in their personal decisions about bearing children. To be sure, legal and financial barriers prevented far too many people, particularly young, low-income, Black, Native American, and Latina women, from exercising their constitutional right. Nevertheless, an extensive body of research demonstrates that legal access to comprehensive reproductive healthcare improved maternal and child health outcomes and advanced gender equity in the United States.
The Dobbs decision has already dramatically changed the landscape. Abortion care in the U.S. is no longer simply difficult to access. It is illegal in 15 states. Abortion care providers and pregnant people seeking care are now subject to heavy fines, suspension, and in some cases, imprisonment. Criminalization has had a ripple effect; fear and suspicion have already resulted in the denial of necessary reproductive healthcare.
The freedom to control if and when to have children is globally recognized as a fundamental human right. At Gender Equity Policy Institute (GEPI), we are committed to defending and advancing human rights, particularly for those marginalized on the basis of sex or gender, and to conduct research that helps the U.S. advance gender equity for all people.
This study reports on the state of reproductive and sexual health in the United States during the final years of the Roe era. Gender Equity Policy Institute’s “The State of Reproductive Health in the United States,” analyzes data on key indicators such as teen births, maternal mortality, and newborn deaths, and compares trends between groups of states. Our objective in this inaugural report is to establish a baseline for future assessments of the effects of abortion bans on women’s health and well-being in the coming years.
For this study, to evaluate reproductive health and well-being in the U.S., we apply the framework adopted by the global community in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, specifically Sustainable Development Goal 3, which calls for all nations to “ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages.” (See Appendix 2.)
The U.S., despite being one of the 193 nations that have signed onto the 2030 Agenda, is the only developed nation that has not measured or publicly reported on its progress on any of the 17 sustainable development goals. With only eight years remaining to reach the 2030 SDG targets, and the newly hostile environment for women’s rights created by the Dobbs decision, a report putting the spotlight on women’s reproductive and sexual health in the United States is in order.
To examine and compare annual levels and trends on key indicators of reproductive health, well-being, and equity, we first classified states into three groups – supportive, restrictive, and banned – based on their level of support for comprehensive reproductive healthcare, and then compared outcomes in the three groups over time. Outcome data was abstracted from high-quality, publicly available sources, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the U.S. Census American Community Survey (ACS), and others. The analysis looked at the 50 states and the District of Columbia and primarily focused on the years 2015 – 2021.
The data is clear. For women, girls, and gender diverse people who can become pregnant, there are two Americas
For those who live in one of the 22 states which support reproductive freedom, the trends are largely positive. The health and well-being of women and babies in these states outpaces that of those living in states which ban or restrict abortion care. This is true across nearly all indicators.
The situation is dramatically different, and more precarious, for the 59% of women and girls who live in the 29 states which ban or restrict abortion care and other reproductive healthcare. On nearly every measure, people in banned and restrictive states have worse outcomes than their counterparts in supportive states. Moreover, these states are less likely to enact policies, like paid parental leave, which have been shown to improve outcomes for new parents and babies.
The end of legal protection for abortion threatens to further increase maternal mortality, newborn and infant mortality, and teenage births in the U.S. These threats are not equal for all women. Women who live in states that ban or restrict abortion and other reproductive healthcare are likely to suffer the burden of these adverse consequences. Nationwide, Black and Native American women already face disproportionately higher maternal mortality rates and Latinas are more likely than other women to be uninsured. Therefore, for Black, Latina, and Native American women who live in states hostile to reproductive freedom, the health dangers will be compounded.
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.
Los Angeles County faces an affordable housing crisis, one of the most acute in the state of California. Rising rents and home purchase prices, a countywide shortfall of new units to meet current and future demand, old housing stock, and a high proportion of low-wage working families in the metropolitan area have combined to leave too many of the County’s residents struggling to secure safe, quality housing. Compounding these trends, the Covid pandemic exacerbated socioeconomic disparities for groups with disproportionately high rates of low-income, especially women of color and single mothers.
SB-679, authored by Senator Sydney Kamlager, would create the Los Angeles County Affordable Housing Solutions Agency (LACAHSA), a countywide multistakeholder agency whose purpose is to increase the supply of affordable housing and provide rental assistance throughout Los Angeles County.
The Gender Equity Policy Institute analyzed housing expenditures and income of Los Angeles County residents to assess the disparate gender and race/ethnicity impacts of the region wide housing affordability crisis. Our findings show that people of color and women, especially Black and Latina women, are more likely to be spending an unsustainable portion of their income on housing.
Understanding current racial and gender housing inequities in Los Angeles County, we hope, will assist LACAHSA in addressing Los Angeles County’s regionwide housing crisis in a way that contributes to eliminating existing inequalities, advancing gender and racial equity in housing, and promoting a healthy and sustainable future for all people in Los Angeles County.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.