Senator Ted Kennedy feels sorry for women. In a report entitled “Taking a Toll: The Effects of Recession on Women,” Kennedy laments: “It is now clear that our economy has sunk into a recession that threatens the wellbeing of countless American families. Yet despite their critical role in the workforce and in raising families, women and their vulnerability in economic downturns have received too little focus.”
At first glance, American woman might thank the Bay State Senator for casting a spotlight on the precarious financial situation of many of our sisters. But a closer look reveals it is a classic, politically opportunistic document designed to advance the author’s agenda while shedding little light on women’s real economic challenges.
The report begins by highlighting opinion polls revealing growing economic anxiety. More Americans are concerned about the economy today than they were a year ago, and a majority expects things to get worse. In keeping with the report’s theme, women are gloomier about the economic situation than men are. The report intones “women in particular feel profoundly anxious about their economic future” and “recent polling data show that women are more likely than men to say they are very worried about the economy.”
Is this really a sign that women are being disproportionately affected by the economic downturn? A look at the Gallup poll cited in the report reveals an alternative explanation. Women were more concerned about the economy last year too, and it’s not just the economy that worries women. As the poll’s summary details: “Other areas for which Gallup finds significant gender differences -- all with women more concerned than men -- include healthcare, crime, the environment, drug use, the possibility of terrorist attacks, unemployment, and hunger/homelessness.”
In other words, women worry more than men about everything. It shouldn’t take extensive polling or Congressional research to reach this conclusion. Any psychology student—or anyone who has a mother or wife, for that matter—could tell you that women tend to be our worriers.
The report also cites the unemployment numbers as evidence that women are particularly burdened by the economic downturn. Yet while women’s unemployment rose faster than men during the past year, women’s unemployment started at a lower level. And today, adult men and women’s unemployment rate is both 4.6%.