State of Women in Arizona

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A new report will be released on the state of women in Arizona by the Arizona Foundation for Women. It was conducted by the Grand Canyon Institute for the Southern Foundation of Arizona Women and looks at the economic and education conditions of women and families in our state and offers solutions to the problems it outlines. Sara Presler, CEO of the Arizona Foundation for Women, and Grand Canyon Institute Fellow Molly Castelazo, will talk about the report’s findings.

Ted Simons: The Arizona foundation for women and the women's foundation of southern Arizona release add report today on state funded and administered programs that impact low income Arizona families. The study used research conducted by the Grand Canyon institute. Here to talk about the new report is Sara Presler, CEO of the Arizona foundation for women and Grand Canyon institute fellow Molly Castelazo.

Both: Thanks for having us.

Ted Simons: This is a big report, there's a lot to go through. Let's start from the 30,000 feet an get down there as we go. Supporting Arizona women's economic self-sufficiency. What are we talking about here?

Sara Presler: Here's what we're talking about. The Arizona foundation for women creates a better life for all of Arizona's women and children. We do that by investing in data driven research to drive the conversation so we hoped with Molly's very good work as a research fellow with the Grand Canyon institute to inform good public policy. This report is really about what's happened over the last five years with Arizona legislative funding and specific programs that impact the lives of Arizona's women and children.

Ted Simons: What has happened over the last five years?

Molly Castelazo: Well, in our research, I think it's important to understand first that when we're talking about the economic self-sufficiency of women and programs and policies that are designed to support that, we're talking about economic development. This is an issue of how do we advance the economy and advance the economic situation of the state as a whole, and do that for all Arizona families. So we looked at different policies and programs that might help support women's self-sufficiency. We looked at child care subsidies. We looked at early childhood education. In nearly every case, the state has substantially cut or eliminated funding. In some cases we are very happy to note that the state has restored funding in the case of access, of course, and adult education, but it's not a positive picture.

Ted Simons: When it comes to low income families and Arizona women from low income backgrounds, I have noticed the work force, poverty rates are so much more different and staggered against women. Work force educations, responsibility for kids, homeownership these are all listed in this report and the numbers don't look all that good.

Sara Presler: The numbers don't lie. What is important to remember the Arizona foundation for women focuses on safety, health and economic empowerment. We're trying to create a self-sufficient community. When we know that 79% of single parent families are headed by women, more than half a million of Arizona's women are poor, we know women are more likely than men to be out of the work force, 59% versus the 41% of men. We know that women are more likely than men to be working low paying jobs. We know now for a fact that what people have been saying is true. It's time now that we do something about it. We're really grateful that southern Arizona women's foundation and Arizona foundation for women is so happy to have this research. So much is going right in Arizona, I mean, we have Intel, APS, SRP, all these amazing things. Housing is on the up. Strong, indigenous communities, yet we're looking in the rearview mirror saying, hey, legislature, it's time to catch up.

Ted Simons: Crunching some of the numbers, especially the occupation, women more likely to work low-paying jobs, more likely to be part-time as opposed to full-time. Is there a choice factor here? Is there is an option factor? What kind of variables do you put into some of these numbers?

Molly Castelazo: Well, let's look first at the work force participation rate. When you take in the context of the fact that 79% of single family households are headed by women, it makes it very difficult when you're trying to raise children to also work full-time year round. But we do know that the poverty rate for women who don't work full-time year round is dramatically higher. It's 21% compared to 4% the rate of poverty for women who do work full-time year round. I think putting it in context of women raising children on their own it doesn't look so much like a choice.

Ted Simons: Indeed. And responsibility for kids, 32% single mother households, and low income child care affordability, that's a big one isn't it?

Molly Castelazo: It is. So we looked not only at what you would call the official poverty level but also the southern Arizona women's foundation did some research on self-sufficiency standards. Beyond the official poverty level, what does it take to support a family? For the vast majority of families, child care is not affordable.

Ted Simons: Yeah.

Sara Presler: In fact, Ted, there are many Arizonans, especially women, with 79% leading up the single parent households paying more in child care than they are in their rent.

Ted Simons: We should mention as well 77% rent rather than own, which is a factor as well. So we have obviously the numbers don't lie, but the numbers are there. Are the numbers getting better in any of these rubrics, if you will?

Molly Castelazo: That's an interesting question. In terms of poverty rates across the board, we looked at the period 2007 to 2012. So as we all know, one of the toughest economic periods in our lifetimes certainly. So during that period, no, the poverty rates have not improved. One bright spot that we looked at is the rate of pregnancy, of teenage pregnancy has come down, which when we look at all of the other numbers in context is very positive.

Ted Simons: You mention the economic conditions here. The state of Arizona, we have lawmakers here all the time talking about cuts and registration. Arizona had to cut due to the recession. Valid?

Sara Presler: Valid. But unlike other states across the country, Arizona did not restore its funding to pre-recession levels. Everyone is searching for the answers, Ted. We're in a CPS crisis, prison costs per inmate are rising every day, but this type of information investing in Arizona's women and children, this is economic development. This is the solution.

Ted Simons: But again, if I'm a lawmaker and I'm sitting across from you saying we can't afford even now to restore to pre-recession levels, in the report it was mentioned 1992 levels were even brought up, you put them back to 1992 levels, tax rates and such, many of these problems seem to go away funding-wise, the state can't afford it.

Sara Presler: We can't afford not to. This kind of information, knowing this forward plan for economic empowerment and self-sufficiency will help us protect Arizona's children and prevent the next CPS crisis. If we can invest in all day kindergarten, $1 invested in early childhood education results in an $11 return on investment to the state. The trouble is that we're used to these fast food results. This is going to take a long-term perspective, a big picture view, which we do at the Arizona foundation for women. We say look, even though it's not popular, it's the right thing to do. What many people say they can't afford it, we say we can't afford not to do it.

Ted Simons: From your research if I'm a lawmaker and I say we can't afford it and that's just the way it is, are there numbers that really are the most compelling that just jump out and say, will you just look at this and understand what it means?

Molly Castelazo: Absolutely. To the question, can we afford it, to answer that question, we looked at some research by Tom Rex, who did some work for the Grand Canyon institute. It posed the question, have the tax cuts that the state has enacted broadly since 1992, have they boosted economic activity? Because that's one of the arguments in favor of tax cuts. And he found that they have not. In fact, if we today reverted to the level of taxation on personal income that we had in 1992, we wouldn't have a negative effect on economic output. There would be 3.15 billion more a year in the state covers.

Ted Simons: I saw that. It's like, that makes sense. Good luck. 1992 levels. Goodness gracious. That's not going to happen.

Sara Presler: I understand but a budget is reflective of a state's priorities. Dramatic cuts to programs that directly impact the economic self-sufficiency of Arizona women and children speaks volumes about whether we as Arizona's women and children are the priority. As the legislature develops its budget we ask them to utilize this report and let that serve as the point on the spear. This really is true economic development.

Ted Simons: Are you getting some attention? Obviously the report released today, but are you sensing folks paying attention here? Sometimes these reports are released and everyone believes what they want to believe and we move on.

Molly Castelazo: Fortunately we're getting some really positive attention. We hope that our policy makers will pay as much attention as we have received so far from media. Because -- I think I was speaking about this in another forum, and the question came up, well, policy makers are not going to pay attention. They are not going to increase taxes, for example to fund some of these programs or to refund some of these programs. So what can be done?

Ted Simons: Very quickly. Going to stop there?

Molly Castelazo: No. We are voters. It's our responsibility as voters to tell our policy makers what needs to be done.

Ted Simons: That's a good place to stop. Good to have you both here. Thank you for joining us. We appreciate it.

Both: Thanks for having us.

Ted Simons: I'm Ted Simons. Thank you for joining us. You have a great evening.

Sara Presler:CEO, Arizona Foundation for Women; Molly Castelazo:Fellow, Grand Canyon Institute;

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