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.

Undocumented & Essential in California

A data-based analysis of the economic challenges faced by undocumented women in California

Key Findings

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.

Download Executive Summary | Leer reporte en Español

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.

Essential Wages: New York

An analysis of New York State’s proposed elimination of the tipped minimum wage and its impact on low-wage women workers

Key Findings

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.

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.