Women in Florida experience higher poverty rate, more limited access to opportunity than U.S. women overall

Posted on December 14, 2016

Groundbreaking report estimates that women’s poverty would be reduced by nearly 60 percent if Florida’s working women received equal pay

A new county-level analysis of the status of women in Florida finds that despite top rankings in the nation on women’s business ownership, women in Florida have higher rates of poverty, lower educational attainment and lower access to health insurance coverage than women in the United States overall. The first in a series of publications, The Status of Women in Florida by County: Poverty & Opportunity was commissioned by Florida Women’s Funding Alliance (FWFA), an affinity group of Florida Philanthropic Network (FPN).

The report, released by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR), estimates that if working women in Florida were paid the same as comparable men – men who are of the same age, have the same level of education, work the same number of hours and have the same urban/rural status – the poverty rate among all working women would fall by 57.3 percent.

“Despite the dramatic advancement of women in recent decades, women are still far more likely than men to be homeless, be unemployed or under-employed, face violence, live in substandard housing and have inadequate health care,” said Eileen Connolly-Keesler, president & CEO of the Women’s Foundation of Collier County. “The Women’s Foundation of Collier County is scrutinizing emerging needs and trends and innovative solutions for forging a path to a better future for grandmothers, mothers and daughters.”

The Status of Women in Florida by County: Poverty & Opportunity provides policy recommendations for improving women’s status on indicators related to poverty and opportunity, including expanding health programs for low-income women, improving educational opportunities for women of color, investing in women’s entrepreneurship and additional steps to narrow the opportunity gap.

“Equipped with research on these disparities by race, ethnicity and county, grantmakers can partner with their communities to identify and prioritize solutions in the best interest for Florida’s women and all residents,” said FPN President & CEO Stacy Carlson, Ph.D. “This report benefits Florida funders at the local, regional and state levels.”

Additional findings from the report on women’s Poverty & Opportunity in Florida include:

  • More women in Florida live in poverty today than in 2004. In 2014, more than one in seven (15.4 percent) Florida women lived in poverty, compared with 12.6 percent in 2004. The state ranks in the bottom third of all states on the share of women living in poverty. There are five Florida counties where poverty rates among women exceed 25 percent: Alachua, DeSoto, Gilchrist, Hamilton and Hardee.
  • Florida ranks 50th in the nation on the percent of nonelderly women with health insurance. Following the passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), the health insurance coverage rate among women in Florida increased, from 73.8 percent covered in 2013 to 78.3 percent in 2014, but coverage rates among women are still well below the national average of 85.4 percent. Florida did not choose to expand Medicaid under the ACA. One in five of the approximately 2.9 million adults who would have gained coverage through the Medicaid expansion provision live in Florida.
  • More than one in four Florida women aged 25 and older has a bachelor’s degree or higher (26.7 percent), compared with 28.1 percent of Florida men. In more than half of Florida counties, fewer than one in five women aged 25 and older has a college degree.
  • Between 2002 and 2012, Florida had the fourth highest growth rate in women-owned businesses in the country. The share of businesses owned by women grew by nearly 85 percent to 38.5 percent in 2012.  Hendry County has the highest share of women-owned businesses at 43.2 percent, while less than a quarter of businesses in Holmes County are owned by women. Black women, who account for about 16 percent of Florida’s women, own 18.4 percent of the state’s women-owned businesses, twice as large as the share of men-owned businesses owned by Black men.

Earlier this year, FWFA commissioned the report in response to Florida’s D+ overall rating on IWPR’s Poverty and Opportunity Index – which scores states based on the percent of women living above poverty and women’s access to health insurance, a college education, and business ownership.

“In the last decade, Florida’s grade on the Poverty & Opportunity Index has remained stuck at D+,” said Julie Anderson, IWPR research associate and author of the report. “As the state grows more diverse, addressing the economic insecurity faced by women of color will be critical to improving the state’s economy overall.”

Women make up 51 percent of the 19.4 million residents in Florida, the United States’ fourth most populous state. A companion report released by IWPR and FWFA finds that the state is more racially diverse and has larger proportions of immigrants, older women, and older men than the nation overall.

View the full report and briefing paper.