The income gap always comes up in conversations about gender equality, but there’s another disparity we often miss: the wealth gap.
The Federal Reserve revealed that in the United States, the median wealth for single women is $3,210, while single men have a median wealth of $10,150. “This means women own 32 cents for every one dollar owned by men. That’s it — 32 cents,” Diane Bourdo wrote in The Woolfer.
“This is important because, at the risk of stating the obvious, a person’s wealth — their assets (cash, investments, and real estate) minus their liabilities (credit card debt, student loans, and mortgage debt) — determines how well they withstand a financial emergency. In fact, many economists believe that measuring wealth is a much more accurate picture of how one is doing financially because wages only indicate how much money is coming in; wealth measures how much has stayed in. When an unexpected medical bill or car repair arises, it’s wealth that we tap into — and men are able to tap into literally three times as much,” Bourdo explained.
There’s no doubt that the income gap contributes to this difference in wealth, but it is not the sole reason the disparity is so high. Another significant element is single parenthood. Women are more likely to shoulder the responsibility of raising children on their own. Between 2000 and 2012, child care costs increased by 24 percent and medical care costs increased by 21 percent. This happened during a time when the median income in the United States actually declined. As a result of rising costs and lower incomes, women — particularly low-income women — are increasingly likely to take on debt to cover their expenses.
Lastly, the wealth gap is further exacerbated by the limited access women may have to employment benefits, government benefits, and tax breaks that facilitate wealth-building, due to their employment status.
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