What do women want? Apparently, not Romney

While most commentators have pointed to candidate’s position on contraception during the primaries, underlying demographic and economic trends suggest the problem may persist into the general election.

By The Fiscal Times Apr 4, 2012 3:56PM
By Merrill GooznerThe Fiscal Times

Recent polls show severe slippage for former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney among women voters in the wake of a divisive battle about providing contraception that dominated the Republican primaries for the past two months.

But is that all it is? The so-called “gender gap” has been a feature of American politics for most of the past two decades. And the chasm between male and female voters has only grown wider in recent years.

In 2008, women voters cast 56 percent of their ballots for President Obama, compared to 43 percent for Republican standard bearer John McCain. But even in 2004, when President George W. Bush eked out a narrow win over Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry, women cast their ballots 51 – 48 in favor of the Democratic standard bearer.

Several federal reports on the changing demographic and economic realities of women in the workforce offer a revealing glimpse into why many have turned in recent years to the Democratic Party, which is traditionally seen as the “mommy party” because of its concern for equality, fairness, social services and the well-being of children.

A recent Census Bureau report on women in the workforce showed that women on average still earn about 77 cents for every dollar earned by men, which is essentially unchanged since 2003. Between 1980 and 2003, that ratio had moved up to 77 percent from about 60 percent.

RELATED: Women Boost Obama in Polls

Why the Lack of Progress More Recently?
First, wages for all workers have stagnated in the past decade. And labor experts say women are disproportionately concentrated in caring professions like teaching, whose paychecks and pensions are under assault by conservative politicians in many states.

Meanwhile, the ongoing changes in family life continue to push women to seek greater financial independence and security, which the workplace increasingly fails to offer. According to Census Bureau data, only 52 percent of adults ages 18 and older were married in 2008, compared with 72 percent in 1960. Nearly three in ten adults of either sex have never married, one in seven is divorced, and nearly four in ten say marriage has become obsolete, according to a recent Pew Research Center survey.

RELATED: Romney Targets Obama after Three Big Wins
 
That puts a heavy onus on women to earn their own way, and they’re trying. While their relative wages have remained stagnant in the past decade, women continue to outpace men on the education front – ostensibly to get the higher pay and earnings that a better education offers.

In 1980, 21 percent of adult men in the workforce had college degrees, compared to just 14 percent of women. But by 2010, according to the Census Bureau, women had reached parity, with nearly 30 percent of each group having at least a bachelor’s degree. The college-educated, who vote in disproportionately higher numbers than less educated people, made up nearly 46 percent of the electorate in 2008.

And women are likely to pull ahead on the education front in the next few years. Among the 25-to-29 age group – those who have most recently entered the workforce – fully 36 percent of all women had a college degree, compared to just 28 percent of men, whose forward progress in educational attainment has begun to slip for the first time in American history. College enrollment is now nearly 60 percent women.

Yet this greater educational achievement has not translated into greater earnings power in the workplace. Between 1970 and 1990 when women entered the workforce in droves because of career aspirations and the need for families to have two wage earners to make ends meet, the rate of women in managerial positions climbed from 16 percent to 38 percent. But over the succeeding two decades – a time when women’s educational achievement skyrocketed and reached comparability with men – they only increased their managerial status by a single percentage point – to 39 percent.

The Republicans’ likely standard-bearer isn’t holding out a hand to help their educational striving to gain wage parity, either.  Standing before a factory gate in Youngstown, Ohio, last month, Romney said, “It would be popular for me to stand up and say I’m going to give you government money to pay for your college, but I’m not going to promise that.”

Related Links:
How Ann Romney Is Helping Mitt's Image Problem
Men Getting Work Faster than Women
Girls Just Wanna Make Money

7Comments
Apr 6, 2012 12:21PM
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It's the men that are the problem. They don't accept their responsibilities as men, husbands and fathers. A good marriage takes time and work but it's worth it.    
Apr 8, 2012 3:04PM
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I understand fiscal conservatism, but the GI Bill and the student loan programs that followed them enabled generations to achieve college degrees, moving individuals - and the economy - forward, especially in the post-WWII era. My mom and dad were the first to earn a degree in either family, and because of that I went to college and grad school and now enjoy a higher standard of living than previous generations. I could not have done it without student loans, which I am paying back in full, never a late payment. So what is wrong with that? I make more money, which I spend, stimulating the economy. I invest, enabling others to gain credit. And I work every day and pay taxes.

 

Either way you cut it, education is the key to pull oneself as well as society up, and is the only thing that will keep us competitive with China and India. So rather than deride education as  "liberal" or something "snobbish," let's realize that it's an investment worth making. We always had this mentality before, so I'm not sure what changed. You can tighten the requirements and prevent  a "mortgage crisis" in the student loan market, but we abandon the idea at our peril.

 

That being said, I don't think education is limited to a four-year degree - what about training for skilled workers? Here in my state we opened a major auto plant two years ago, and the state Dept of Labor partnered with the company and others to train those workers, who now fill the 2,000-plus new jobs that were created. We just don't do enough of this.

 

Some things are worth investing in, and some things are not. But let's discern the difference first.

Apr 9, 2012 4:39PM
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What do woman want?  Besides money, a job, the right to do what they want, when they want, with whomever they want, for whomever they want, to whomever they want, did I forget anything?  What do men want?  What do Aborigines want?  Does the GOP care about them?  What does uncircumcised men want, a new hoody?  What we need here is a good old revolution where we drag our politicians out in the streets and beat them up!  Will this ever happen - HELL NO!  And why?  Because the stupid puppets and sheep will continue to point fingers and watch dancing with the dopes.  Enough of me wasting more of my time.
Apr 9, 2012 12:52PM
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Bull, woman are not going to fall for this smear. What's next ?

Apr 7, 2012 4:40PM
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I recently told my husband that if insurance will no longer cover my birth control pills., that we really can't afford them and the doctors exam. He let off a string of swear words, matter of fact, I think he made-up a couple new ones! I don't think he's voting for Romney.
Apr 6, 2012 10:25PM
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IDK and me--------If men are the problem, then apparently you want the government to be the daddy. Women don't take responsibility as mothers and wives.

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