“I work full time,” said Felicia, a single mom raising a 4-year-old son, “and feel like no matter how hard I try I just can’t get ahead.” But a few days ago, Felicia did something to help mothers feeling the pressure of economic insecurity. She testified before the Oregon legislature, urging lawmakers to enact the Oregon Kids’ Credit.
Economic insecurity is a problem for huge swaths of Oregon families. That is especially true for families headed by single moms like Felicia, who must also contend with the structural factors that give rise to the gender wage gap.
Today is National Equal Pay Day, the day that marks how far into the year women must work to be paid what men were paid the previous year. Nationally, women made just $0.82 on the dollar compared to their male counterparts in 2022, up just 2 cents from the same figure 20 years prior. The pay gap is worse for many women of color, particularly for Black and Latina women.
The disproportionate share of caretaking shouldered by mothers helps in part to explain the persistent wage gap between men and women. A 2018 study determined that despite improved educational outcomes for women in recent decades and the impacts of anti-discrimination laws, the wage gap persists in part due to the caretaking work of mothers. The study found a clear gap in career earnings between women who had children and those who did not. Such a gap did not exist for men, regardless of whether or not they were fathers.
Another contributing factor for the gender pay gap is occupational segregation, as OCPP has reported. High-paying occupations — even those that do not require much post-secondary education — are often dominated by men. Meanwhile, women often labor in lower-paying jobs such as childcare, personal care aides, nursing assistants, and housekeepers. That’s especially the case for women of color.
In 2021, as part of the American Rescue Plan, Congress expanded the federal Child Tax Credit, making it more available to families with little or no income. It also offered a portion of the credit in advance monthly payments, helping families address their basic needs month-to-month, rather than waiting for tax season. All in all, this meant that mothers who had dropped out of the workforce to take on child care duties at home were better able to access the credit.
Indeed, the expanded federal Child Tax Credit had historic impacts. Child poverty was cut nearly in half, and reduced to its lowest level on record. In Oregon, nearly nine in 10 families with low incomes surveyed reported spending their Child Tax Credit dollars on essentials like food, housing, and keeping the lights on. The results were clear: unrestricted, cash-like benefits were an efficient and effective way of helping families struggling to get by to be more economically secure.
While the expanded federal Child Tax Credit has expired, Oregon lawmakers have an opportunity to create a state child tax credit this legislative session. The Oregon Kids’ Credit (HB 3235) would provide families with a refundable tax credit worth $1,200 per child aged 17 and under. We estimate it would lift up more than 200,000 children in every corner of the state, and bring nearly 20,000 children out of poverty.
Mothers like Felicia who work so hard both in and outside their homes deserve to be more economically secure. Their labor – much of which remains unpaid – is a tremendous benefit to the broader economy.
The Oregon Kids’ Credit is good for kids. It’s good for our state. And it’s good for moms.