Overlooked So Far: The Nation’s Unmarried Women in 2008

A New Agenda to Build Opportunity

    Read the full report (pdf)

    Here is what it means to be an unmarried woman in 2008: Amid a declining economy, a tattered social safety net, and higher energy prices, you likely make less money, have fewer assets, have less access to health care, and face more job insecurity than other Americans. You also often take care of children and sometimes elderly parents. For these voters the 2008 campaign is not an intellectual exercise; they are looking for real solutions.

    So far unmarried women are mostly overlooked, but they are a key to this year’s campaign. A fast-growing demographic that is increasingly focused on politics, these single, divorced, and widowed women compose 26 percent of the electorate—in other words, unmarried women are more than one in four of all voters.

    A few facts make clear the challenges unmarried women are facing, and why their agenda is somewhat different from what the nation has heard from the campaigns so far.

    • Economically Vulnerable. More than 40 percent of unmarried women have household incomes of less than $30,000 a year. That’s much worse than married women and married men, and worse than unmarried men.
    • Work Pays Them Less. Unmarried women make less than others for the same work, and earn only 56 cents to every dollar a married man earns.
    • Responsible for Children. The responsibility for taking care of children often falls on unmarried women: There are 12.2 million single-parent families in America, and more than 10 million are headed by single mothers.
    • Missing Health Care. Unmarried women are more likely than other Americans to have no health insurance. They were twice as likely to be unable to afford medical care in the past year as women who were married.
    • They Rely on Social Security. More than 25 percent of unmarried women rely on Social Security as their only source of income.

    Unmarried women want to build their American dream: economic self-sufficiency, a good education for themselves and for their children, a home they own, and a secure retirement.

    Unfortunately, for the last eight years the needs of unmarried women have been largely ignored. Unmarried women have been overlooked in an era of tax breaks for the wealthy, continued increases in health care and energy prices, and a costly war in the Middle East.

    In this agenda, we outline the steps that leaders, particularly the next president, should take to address the needs of unmarried women. The policy agenda is divided into four categories: Expanding Opportunity by Rewarding Work; A New, Stronger Social Contract; Resolving the War in Iraq; and Improved Health Care for All.

    Read the full report (pdf)