What is Wealth: A Gender Perspective

What is Wealth: A Gender Perspective

So much recent discussion –on both local and national levels- has been about the challenge of income and wealth gaps.  But those looking for solutions most often focus on income – raising minimum wage, skills training, connecting people to employment opportunities.  The impact of this inequality has major implications for women, especially if the focus is on income alone.  Dr. Mariko Chang noted in her book Shortchanged:  “in discussing the financial standing of women in America, a focus on income is misleading, because wealth is a much more meaningful measure of economic well-being.”

What is wealth?  It is the value of assets minus debts.  Wealth provides funds for emergencies, a better future for children and families, and support in old age.

Building long-term economic stability requires access to wealth-building opportunities, which include:

  • Savings for emergencies, higher education, retirement
  • Access to financial education and coaching
  • Savings and credit-building products
  • Opportunities to leverage savings into wealth-building products such as stocks, homes, real estate, business

The gender wealth gap is far larger than the income gap – median wealth for single men is $10,150, but for single women it is only $3,210.  For women of color, the gap is much greater, as the median age of wealth for single Black women is $200, and for Hispanic women only $100.  One of 3 Iowa single female households are considered to be in “asset poverty” – they don’t have sufficient liquid assets to subsist at the poverty level for three months without income.  If these women lose their jobs, they are likely to experience financial disaster.

Chrysalis grant investments focus on the many of the barriers women face in building wealth, including:

  • Part-time jobs that do not offer employer-based health and retirement support
  • Supporting both children and/or elderly parents (which may limit their ability to work and save)
  • High levels of debt, which prevent them from building savings or purchasing a home or business

We know that in order to build wealth, women need attention to many other opportunities – improved educational attainment, access to quality childcare and healthcare, financial education, affordable housing.  These are the strategies Chrysalis grant partners employ in assuring a strong financial future – economic empowerment – for the girls and women in our community.