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.
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.
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.