2008 Stepping Stones Research Briefing: Calling all presenters!

We are seeking presenters for the 2008 Stepping Stones Research Briefing to be held the morning of Friday, May 16, 2008 at The Urban Institute in Washington, D.C.

Washington Area Women’s Foundation and The Urban Institute will co-sponsor the 3rd annual Stepping Stones Research Briefing, highlighting research on issues relevant to low-income, women-headed families. We are looking for researchers who would like to present their research and findings at this year’s research briefing.

Stepping Stones is Washington Area Women’s Foundation’s multi-year initiative focused on increasing economic security and financial independence for low-income, women-headed families in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area. The Stepping Stones Research Briefing provides an opportunity for The Women’s Foundation and its partners to learn about the latest research that can inform their work supporting this population.

The first two research briefings each drew audiences of over 100 people, including representatives from community-based organizations, funders, government agencies, and research institutions.  Information on the 2007 briefing is available here.

Individuals interested in participating in this year’s research briefing should submit an abstract of their research and findings (no more than 1,000 words) to Peter Tatian at The Urban Institute (ptatian@ui.urban.org), by 5:00 pm, Friday, March 7, 2008.

Abstracts should make clear how the research is relevant to issues facing low-income, women-headed families and those who are working to assist these women.

Submissions will be accepted in the following topic areas: financial education and wealth creation; workforce development and business ownership; child care and early education; and, health and safety.

Final selection of presenters will be made by March 21, 2008.

Copies of all presentations, as well as audio recordings of the entire event, will be posted on The Urban Institute and The Women’s Foundation’s Web sites. Presentations from last year’s research briefing can be found here.

Questions about the research briefing should be addressed to Peter Tatian (ptatian@ui.urban.org) at The Urban Institute or Carolee Summers-Sparks at The Women’s Foundation.

Please share this announcement with anyone who may be interested.

For more information on the background of the Stepping Stones Research Briefing, click here.

Peter Tatian is a senior research associate in the Urban Institute’s Center on Metropolitan Housing and Communities.  Peter plays a crucial role in the development and success of the Stepping Stones Research Briefing.

Google searches for the yes in grantmaking.

We’ve talked in the past about the sometimes daunting feeling, particularly in our own individual giving, of feeling powerless to really affect much change in light of so many huge problems. 

Without Oprah’s millions, we think, who are we to really think we could make an impact? 

We’re afflicted with that feeling of smallness that can often lead to doing nothing at all, or we find ourselves spread thin by the feeling that we should care about everything, and therefore find our impact diminished as our already limited resources are spread over every valid cause and issue from here to Hong Kong.

It’s the typical dilemma of the everyday, every wo(man) philanthropist. 

So it’s kind of funny to hear that Google–yes, Google–that behemoth of technical genius, strategy and innovation that has revolutionized how we find ourselves (and others)–is also feeling that daunting feeling of smallness.

The New York Times has the story, of Google’s first foray into grantmaking decision-making with its new foundation, Google.org.

And even Google is feeling the challenge of getting through the nos to the yesses–proving that no matter who you are, or what resources you have, having a strategy, goals and plan behind your giving is crucial. 

Larry Brilliant, the director of Google.org explains, saying, “There are 6.5 billion people in the world, and in the last 18 months I’ve met 6.4 billion."  The article continues, "Dr. Brilliant likened his moral quandary…to that faced by a saint wandering the streets of Benares.  There are 500 steps between the road and the Ganges.  On every step are beggars, lepers, people who have no arms or legs, people literally starving. The saint has a couple of rupees; how does a good and honorable person make a resource allocation decision? Do you weigh a hand that’s missing more than a leg? Someone who’s starving versus a sick child? In a much less dramatic way, that’s what the last 18 months have been for us.”

The article goes on to discuss Google.org’s challenge of coming to its own strategy and plans for how it will invest the foundation’s funding, the key to truly being a successful philanthropist–whether you have $10 or $10 million to give

Because,  when it comes to really making a difference, it doesn’t come down to how much you have to invest, but also to how willing you are to make the tough choices by focusing your giving around the nexus where your passion meets a clear sense of purpose and focused strategy.

It’s never easy.  When Oprah started her school, there was criticism a plenty.  The Gates Foundation has also taken flack for some of its decisions.  In times, Google.org will, too.   When it’s your own giving, maybe you beat yourself up for not being able to say yes to it all, or for not being able to do more. 

Because anytime you say yes, you’re also saying no, and that takes just as much courage as it takes cash. 

But therein lies the power of true change and transformation–in affirmatively putting your investments and your time and your talent behind one or two focused yesses that are a reflection of who you are and what you believe.

That’s when the search leads you beyond the surface, to true social change.

Powerful testimony on poverty inspires hope for positive change in D.C.

Last week, Washington Area Women’s Foundation and several of our Grantee Partners testified at an incredible DC City Council Roundtable Hearing called “Poverty Issues: Developing a Public/Private Strategy Aimed at Eliminating Poverty Among District Residents.”

I was truly impressed by the commitment to addressing poverty in our community that was apparent at this hearing. More than 100 people signed up to be witnesses – in fact, such a large number of people wanted to testify that the hearing had to be extended from one to two days!

Witnesses came from every corner of the District and from every segment of the anti-poverty community – funders (like The Women’s Foundation), academics, researchers, clergy, tenant association members, businesspeople…the list goes on.

The most moving testimony, though, came from those who provide services directly to the city’s low-income population (like our Grantee Partners) and the individuals who came forward to discuss how these programs helped them to move from poverty to financial independence. I am in awe of the bravery of the women and men who testified on the record (and on cable TV) about their very personal trials.

Among those Grantee Partners who testified: Capital Area Asset Builders, Covenant House Washington, DC Employment Justice Center, DC Women’s Agenda, Empower DC, MANNA Inc., Marshall Heights Community Development Organization, Inc., My Sister’s Place, Inc., the Rebecca Project for Human Rights, So Others Might Eat and Wider Opportunities for Women.

The commitment of the Members of the Committee on Housing and Urban Affairs is also to be commended. Chairman Marion Barry and Council Members Yvette Alexander, Muriel Bowser and Tommy Wells were all present for a significant portion of the two days of hearings.  As somebody who has worked for two Members of Congress, I can tell you that that is an exceptional amount of time to dedicate to one hearing.  All of the Councilmembers carefully listened to each of the witnesses and asked thoughtful questions of each – all 100-plus of them.

The question now, of course, is what happens next.  Councilman Barry has stated that he plans to create a concrete policy agenda to address poverty in D.C.  Hopefully, this effort will lead to the creation of, and additional funding for, effective programs that help low-income people acquire the tools they need to provide for themselves and their families. To that end, The Women’s Foundation will continue to offer our expertise.

I have to say, though, that regardless of what laws eventually get passed, I think the Roundtable Hearing had a purpose unto itself (and you cannot say that about every hearing that is held before the City Council). Experts had the chance to educate the Committee about the parameters of poverty in D.C. Anti-poverty organizations were able to discuss their programs directly with Councilmembers – and I saw several meetings being set up so that Councilmembers could follow-up on the testimony.

Most importantly, the hearing gave a voice to so many people who are often voiceless in Washington. It is a powerful thing to command the attention of lawmakers. It was inspiring to see that power handed to those who must need it.

To check out video of the testimony of The Women’s Foundation, its Grantee Partners and others, click here.  These hearings took place on January 16th before the Housing Committee, and on January 17th before the Housing Committee.

To read The Women’s Foundation’s testimony:
Short version
Extended version

Tell us how you'd invest $5,000 in our community.

Bummed that the writer’s strike meant no Golden Globes this year?  Miss the glitz and glamor of the red carpet?

Well, we may not have glitz and glamor, but we do have an awards process for you!  And this time, you’re invited to be part of the academy…the academy of social change!

It’s our way of rolling out the red carpet to you!

Visit us from February 1-15th and vote for the 2007 Leadership Awardee that you think stands to make the greatest long-term impact on the lives of women and girls in our region. 

It’s the "People’s Choice of Philanthropy" and it’s all about social change–long-term, true change in social structures, institutions and processes that permanently address the root causes that foster inequity.

We’ve got eight outsanding organizations that are all doing effective, life-changing work for women and girls in the area of health and safety for you to learn about, choose from and then vote on. 

The 2007 Leadership Awards Committee has already done the leg work for you, researching and interviewing organizations, going on site visits and engaging in serious deliberations to get to this pool of eight outstanding awardees.

Now it’s your turn to weigh in on an even tougher decision–which among them stands the best chance of contributing positively to the women and girls in our community.

Get a head-start here, and then come back in February to cast your vote!  As we’ve learned before, saying no to get to the yes vote isn’t always as easy as one might think, so do your research, get ready, and vote!

The organization that receives the most votes will win an award of $5,000 in addition to their $10,000 Leadership Award–all a result of you using your voice for social change!

And if you would like an email reminder to come back and vote, or if you’d like more information about how to be a part of the 2008 Leadership Awards Committee, just drop me a line at lkays@wawf.org.

For more information, view the press release.

Baby Boomers & Gen Xers: Survey reports on how women's philanthropy is aging.

The Traverse City Record-Eagle reports today in its article, "Giving where it counts: survey studies women philanthropists," that The Falconer Group has just released the results of a national survey on women’s philanthropy. 

The findings? 

Among them that women tend to be more into building social change, and really making a difference, than on attaching their names to buildings or monuments.

The survey focused on on the philanthropy of Baby Boomer women born between 1945 and 1960 and Gen X women born between 1961 and 1980.  The gift sizes of the 176 women surveyed nationwide ranged from $200 to $4 million annually. 

This was the first survey of this kind focusing on Gen X philanthropists, such as myself.  And evidently, it’s not surprising that I associate myself with the concept of philanthropy, even though I don’t give millions.  According to the survey, this is one of the trends among Gen X women–a more prevalent tendency to consider themselves philanthropists. 

The article explains another finding about Gen X women, saying, "Gen X women are the future of philanthropy," said Carmen Stevens (who conducted the survey). "This group of women will provide new definitions for what it means to be a donor, how to give through partnership that includes venture philanthropy, experiential giving and global perspectives, and will not be satisfied with traditional methods of solicitation or support." 

Gen X philanthropists also tend to be into what we call around here, "building a wave of philanthropy."  The article explains, "Gen X women are looking beyond philanthropy for involvement, both personally and with others, to create a ‘ripple’ effect and collective change as they go about making the world a better place," said Sondra Shaw-Hardy (co-author of the survey). "With Boomer women, involvement was key before they gave. With Gen X-ers, it is the reverse."

But despite these differences, the survey found similarities between women philanthropists representing these two generations–such as their preference for social change and genuine transformation of people’s lives than one-off projects or buildings. 

Other similarities:

  • Women tend to use their gifts to leverage others, by providing challenge grants, and even accepting public recognition.  They are stepping up to encourage other women to give, and to serve as advocates for the organizations they support.
  • Women give from a place of true passion and tend to be more concerned with what they’re giving to, than how much they’re giving, when considering their role as philanthropists.  They also value volunteering and giving of their time and talent to an organization when considering the idea of philanthropy–not just how much money they can give.
  • Women tend to be concerned with and giving to local organizations and issues.
  • In terms of issues, women are most concerned with promoting an understanding of the world as one community; protecting the environment; sharing of resources; the need for compassion; and, the need for peace and an end to violent conflict–which women see as beginning with the empowerment of women.

Whatever women are giving to though, or their reasons for doing so, the common thread seems to be interweaving  their passion with proven strategies and know-how. 

The article explains, "I think women give from the heart but now they are much more sophisticated in how they give," said Marsha Smith, executive director of Rotary Charities in Traverse City.  "Women are more likely to get engaged in something they’re passionate about," echoed Weeks. "This doesn’t necessarily mean giving large amounts of money. It also might mean being on a board or getting involved in a fund raiser.  Women are interested in seeing results. They want to be part of the solution."

And so, like with anyone, women’s philanthropy seems to be just getting wiser, stronger and more powerful with age and experience–building on the knowledge and lessons of the past to glean the knowledge and skills necessary to conquer challenges and build a hopeful, positive future.

In the words of Dar Williams, aren’t we aging well?

Stepping Stones Research Update: January 2008

As part of our ongoing commitment–in partnership with The Urban Institute–to providing information and resources related to the goals of Stepping Stones, please find below summary of recent research on issues of economic security and financial independence for women and their families.

This research is summarized and compiled for The Women’s Foundation by Kerstin Gentsch of The Urban Institute, NeighborhoodInfo DC.

Financial Education and Wealth Creation News

The Effects of Welfare and IDA Program Rules on the Asset Holdings of Low-Income Families
By Signe-Mary McKernan, Caroline Ratcliffe, Yunju Nam
Urban Institute
September 2007

Examines the effects of a comprehensive set of 13 welfare, Food Stamp, individual development account (IDA), earned income tax credit (EITC), and minimum wage program rules on the asset holdings of low-education single mothers and families.  This report finds empirical evidence that more lenient asset limits in means-tested programs and more generous IDA program rules may have positive effects on asset holdings of low-education single mothers and families.

Main Findings:

  • More generous unrestricted asset limits are not associated with increased liquid asset holdings for either low-education single mothers or families.
  • More generous restricted account asset limits are associated with increased liquid asset holdings for low-education single mothers and families.
  • More generous Food Stamp vehicle asset limits are associated with increased vehicle asset holdings for low-education single mothers.
  • Expanded categorical eligibility in the Food Stamp Program is associated with increased vehicle asset holdings for low-education single mothers and families.
  • More generous IDA program rules are associated with increased liquid asset holdings and net worth.
  • A more generous state EITC amount is negatively associated with liquid asset holdings but the percentage of the state EITC that is refundable is positively associated with liquid asset holdings.
  • A more generous state minimum wage for federally covered categories (i.e., covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act) is associated with increased liquid asset holdings, vehicle asset holdings, and net worth.

Abstract and introduction.
Full paper. 

Assessing Asset Data on Low-Income Households: Current Availability and Options for Improvement
By Caroline Ratcliffe, Henry Chen, Trina R. Williams-Shanks, Yunju Nam, Mark Schreiner, Min Zhan, Michael Sherraden
Urban Institute
September 2007

Identifies the most reliable and informative data sources for understanding low-income households’ assets and liabilities, details their limitations, and provides options for improving asset data sources and collection methods.
The four evaluation criteria—relevancy, representativeness, recurrence, and richness of correlates—serve as a framework for assessing how effectively various data sets can provide an understanding of low-income households’ assets and liabilities.  Of the data sets reviewed, only one receives the highest ranking under all four criteria—the PSID. With these high rankings, the PSID has the potential to provide reliable information on low-income households’ assets and liabilities and is identified as a “primary” data set.

Because our primary research question asks that we identify the most informative and reliable data sources for understanding low-income households’ assets and liabilities, any data set designated a “primary data set” should comprehensively measure assets and liabilities (relevance criterion) and be representative of the overall U.S. low-income population (representativeness criterion).

The only other data sets that receive top ratings in these two criteria are the SIPP and SCF. They perform well enough in the other two criteria to also be deemed “primary” data sets.

Abstract and introduction. 
Full report. 

Jobs and Business Ownership News

Low-Income Workers and Their Employers: Characteristics and Challenges
By Gregory Acs and Austin Nichols
Urban Institute
May 2007

Defines and documents the characteristics of low-wage workers and their employers.  This paper finds that about one in four workers, ages 18 to 61, earned less than $7.73 an hour in 2003. Low-wage workers who reside in low-income families with children are substantially less educated than the average worker, are concentrated in industries with low wages, and have limited prospects for wage growth. Many policies aimed at low-wage workers are not well-targeted at workers in low-income families with children, in part because only one in four low-wage workers reside in such families. Nevertheless, policies targeted at low-wage workers may have broad benefits, including improving the lot of low-income families with children.

Abstract and introduction. 
Full paper. 

Place Matters: Employers, Low-Income Workers, and Regional Economic Development
By Nancy M. Pindus, Brett Theodos, G. Thomas Kingsley
Urban Institute
May 2007

Summarizes factors determining locational decisions of businesses and workers, as well as local economic growth, and suggests how employer needs as well as opportunities for low-income workers might be served by successful policies in the areas of housing, transportation, education and workforce development.

In looking at economic development, employer choices, and opportunities for low wage workers through the lens of place, it is clear that the landscape is shifting and policies must adapt accordingly. Spatial mismatch is more than employers and businesses leaving the urban core and poor urban residents lacking transportation to new job centers. Now, some urban centers are revitalizing, the creative class is growing in cities, and some suburbs (especially older suburbs and some outer-ring suburbs) are increasingly diverse and beginning to experience some of the same challenges as cities. And, there is a growing body of evidence that, in a knowledge-based economy, equity and tolerance are good for business. There is a growing consensus that geography of opportunity has changed, and continues to change.

Opportunities for new initiatives:

  • Housing policies that promote “workforce housing” and the deconcentration of poverty by considering the mix of the workforce and matching housing opportunities to that mix.
  • Transportation and other infrastructure funding that supports integration of systems and reduces sprawl by concentrating development near rail and bus hubs (“smart growth”).
  • Aligning workforce and education with economic development by addressing spatial mismatches between training opportunities and where people live and work; improving coordination between employers, workforce development intermediaries, and community colleges; and facilitating cross-firm career mobility within regional labor markets.

Abstract and introduction. 
Full paper. 

Building Skills and Promoting Job Advancement: The Promise of Employer-Focused Strategies
By Karin Martinson
Urban Institute
May 2007

Discusses what we know about employer-focused training, describes three employer-focused training models, and concludes with some key questions to address to assist in moving forward with this type of skill development strategy.  Three types of promising employer-focused job training:

  • Incumbent worker training provided directly at the workplace through employers is a large-scale effort to involve employers in skill building.
  • Sectoral training programs focus on providing training to a cluster of employers in one segment of the labor market.
  • Career ladders: A subset of sectoral initiatives focuses on developing career pathways that lead to higher-paying jobs.

Main challenges:

  • Many sectoral and career ladder initiatives require the involvement of multiple systems, including workforce development, community colleges, the business community, unions, and community groups. It can be difficult to gain the cooperation of all parties needed to enact the type of major changes required by many initiatives.
  • Many employer-focused training programs require substantial resources to plan and implement effective initiatives.
  • While strides forward have been made, it is a continuing challenge to develop training options that effectively reach low-income workers.

Abstract and introduction. 
Full paper. 

Meeting Responsibilities at Work and Home: Public and Private Supports
By Pamela Winston
Urban Institute
May 2007

Summarizes what we know about families’ access to supports, employers’ experiences, and public and employer efforts to expand them.

Paid parental/family leave:
Time for parents and infants to bond is vital to children’s positive development, and long hours in out-of-home care in early infancy pose risks for children’s development, especially in the low-quality settings to which low-income families often have access. The United States is one of only 5 of 173 nations surveyed for a global index that does not have public policies to provide paid time off for parents to care for and bond with a new infant. Further, while some employers and states provide paid parental leave, low-wage workers are least likely to have access to it.

Paid sick leave/paid time off:
Paid time off that can be used for workers’ short-term illnesses or those of their children, routine medical care, involvement in children’s school meetings or activities, or for other family or personal needs can play an important role in fostering family well-being. Almost half (48 percent) of American private-sector workers are estimated to lack any paid sick leave, amounting to over 54 million employees.

Workplace flexibility:
Flexibility for employees to change start or end times, take time out during work hours for emergencies, request shift changes or exemption from mandatory overtime, or otherwise adjust work hours for family obligations can also help parents fulfill their responsibilities to their employers and their families. 57 percent of workers indicated in 2002 they did not have access to traditional flextime.

Child care:
Access to affordable, consistent, and adequate-quality child care available during work hours can make an important difference to parents’ productivity and reliability on the job, and to children’s well-being. As a rule, the child care market does not provide a sufficient supply of affordable adequate-quality care, which can create particular challenges for low-income families. Public programs can provide financial and other support to many low-income families with low-wage workers, but typically many eligible people do not participate in them.

Abstract and introduction. 
Full paper. 

Maternity Leave in the United States: Paid Parental Leave is still not Standard, even among the Best U.S. Employers
By Vicky Lovell, Elizabeth O’Neill, Skylar Olsen
Institute for Women’s Policy Research
August 2007

Analyzes parental leave policies of Working Mother100 Best Companies.

  • Nearly one-quarter (24 percent) of the best employers for working mothers provide four or fewer weeks of paid maternity leave, and half (52 percent) provide six weeks or less.
  • Nearly half of the best companies fail to provide any paid leave for paternity or adoption.
  • While more than one-quarter of companies (28 percent) provide nine or more weeks of paid maternity leave, many of the winners’ paid parental leave policies fall far short of families’ needs.
  • No company provides more than six weeks of paid paternity leave and only 7 of the 100 best companies provide seven weeks or more of paid adoptive leave.

Press release.
Fact sheet. 

Implementation and Sustainability: Emerging Lessons from the Early High Growth Job Training Initiative (HGJTI) Grants
By John Trutko, Carolyn T. O’Brien, Pamela A. Holcomb, and Demetra Smith Nightingale
Urban Institute
April 2007

Summarizes lessons from the early grantees of a major national effort to encourage the development of market-driven strategies addressing business and industry’s workforce challenges.

The discussions revealed insight into four general, interrelated, implementation issues:

1. Establishing and maintaining partnerships

  • Bringing the right partnerships together is critical to success.
  • Successful collaboration requires regular discussions and agreement regarding respective roles and responsibilities of each organization and the specifics of how staff will collaborate and share information.
  • The existence of the HGJTI grants helped partnering organizations to better understand the resources and capabilities of other organizations.
  • Employer partnerships are especially important to ensure that the workforce challenges are accurately defined and the strategies selected meet the current and immediate needs of the sector.
  • Projects operating across large areas, such as in rural locations, face special issues regarding partnerships.

2. Project start-up, development, and design

  • Effective and timely implementation of projects aimed at addressing critical workforce needs depends greatly on recruiting and retaining staff with the necessary occupation-specific skills.
  • Effective training programs should have a strong front-end assessment and recruitment and outreach procedures in place.

3. Targeting and reaching trainees

  • Grantees found that when serving disadvantaged populations and dislocated workers it is important to incorporate supportive services.
  • Recruiting and retaining participants is a major activity for training programs, and a particular challenge when targeting on widely varying populations.
  • At the time grantees were contacted, most had reached or were close to reaching their capacity-building and training goals.

4. Management and meeting federal grant requirements

  • It is important to begin to focus on post-grant sustainability well before grant funds are exhausted.
  • DOL/ETA staff provided various types of technical assistance and guidance to HGJTI grantees, but many needed more federal grants management support.
  • Grantees found that they needed a longer grant performance period.

Abstract and introduction.
Full paper. 

Child Care and Early Education News

Vouchers for Housing and Child Care: Common Challenges and Emerging Strategies
By Margery Austin Turner, Gina Adams, Monica Rohacek, Lauren Eyster
Urban Institute
August 2007

Highlights promising strategies for tackling challenges to housing and child care vouchers’ success.  Vouchers play an important role in federal efforts to help low-income families obtain both housing and child care. These programs constitute essential components of the promise of welfare reform to encourage and support work among low-income families. And both types of vouchers have the potential to enhance long-term outcomes for children.

Although federal housing and child care voucher programs differ in important respects, they also face common challenges. First, the success of both programs in helping families access high-quality services depends upon the supply of these services in the private market and the willingness of providers to accept voucher families. If acceptable rental housing units or child care slots are not available where families need them, vouchers are not effective. In addition, low-income families may face challenges in negotiating the private market, gathering information about available child care or housing options, or identifying providers that meet their needs and offer good quality. Finally, both housing and child care voucher programs have to balance requirements to avoid any overpayment of subsidies (either by serving ineligible families or by miscalculating the appropriate subsidy amount) with a mandate to support work and enhance well-being among low-income families.

Abstract and introduction. 
Full paper. 

Pre-Kindergarten to 3rd Grade (PK-3) School-based Resources and Third Grade Outcome
By Brett V. Brown and Kimber Bogard
August 2007

Examines multiple PK-3 school based resources that tap into children’s experiences of early elementary grade learn to PK-3 school-based resources by key social groups of children defined by poverty status, parental education, and race/ethnicity.

While the majority of children had access to most positive PK-3 school influences, marked inequalities in access were still found. Unequal access to these school resources were observed by parental education and income level, as well as race and Hispanic origin. The most educationally at risk children (i.e., parents have less than a high school education, family income below the poverty level, Black non-Hispanic children) were the least likely groups of children to access high resource elementary schools. This finding clearly indicates that the quality of elementary schools must be considered when examining questions concerning achievement gaps by income and race/ethnicity.

Our preliminary multi-variate analyses point to some core school variables that predict academic and behavior skills necessary for future success and well-being. Of particular interest are the differential relationships between two clearly defined sets of PK- 3 school-based resources reported in kindergarten, and their relationships to academic and behavior outcomes in third grade. Reading and math scores were consistently predicted by strong principal leadership, high academic standards, and teachers collaboratively developing curricular materials. Teacher turnover, which can be considered indicative of instability within a school, was related to lower rates of self-control and school engagement among third grade children. These findings suggest that there may be PK-3 school-based resources that independently predict academic and behavioral outcomes. Though these results are preliminary, we believe they are the strongest research evidence yet that such factors each have influence over levels of school readiness in young children.

Full paper. 

Health and Safety News

Access to Employer-Sponsored Health Insurance among Low-Income Families: Who Has Access and Who Doesn’t?
By Lisa Clemans-Cope, Genevieve M. Kenney, Matthew Pantell, Cynthia Perry
Urban Institute
September 11, 2007

Examines access to employer-sponsored health insurance among low-income families.

  • In 2003 and 2004, about one in two children in low-income families did not have access to ESI, despite having one or more employed adults in the family.
  • Among low-income working families, families with lower levels of income, families with lower parental education, families where parents work in smaller establishments, and families in which no parent has union representation are all less likely to have access to ESI.
  • Public insurance fills a substantial part of the gap in health insurance coverage left by lack of ESI access for children in low-income working families, but parents without an offer of ESI remain uninsured at high rates. In fact, among families without an ESI offer, children are twice as likely—and parents nearly three times as likely—to be uninsured than families with an offer.

Abstract and introduction. 
Full paper. 

Employer-Sponsored Health Insurance and the Low-Income Workforce: Limitations of the System and Strategies for Increasing Coverage
By Linda J. Blumberg
Urban Institute
May 2007

Outlines the problems with employer-sponsored insurance from the perspective of employers, specifically those employing low-income workers, and discusses potential strategies for addressing them.  Problems with employer-sponsored insurance from the perspective of employers:

  • When employers competing for the same pool of workers tend to offer health insurance, then the pressure to offer such benefits increases for the other employers in that labor market. Likewise, in markets where ESI is not common, the pressure to offer it is significantly lessened.
  • One of the more controversial and complex issues related to the employer decision to offer insurance is whether the incidence of employer premium contributions falls upon the employer or upon the worker. While the best empirical evidence available indicates that, at least in large part, employer payments are passed back to workers via reduced wages, most employers do not believe this is the case.
  • Firms employing significant numbers of modest-wage workers will not be able to offer health insurance to their workers. This is because low-income workers will tend to prefer employment that provides additional wages as opposed to health insurance benefits to a significantly greater extent than will high-income workers.
  • Another aspect of the price of health insurance to employers is labor turnover. The administrative costs associated with health plan enrollment and disenrollment are higher for employers with high-turnover workforces.

Policy options to address shortcomings of the system:

  • Providing government subsidies for insurance coverage.
  • Requiring all residents to obtain a minimum level of insurance: individual mandates.
  • Requiring employers to participate in the financing of health insurance coverage for their workers: employer mandates.
  • Approaches for controlling health care costs.

Abstract and introduction. 
Full paper. 

Other News and Research

The Feminization of Poverty
by Megan Thibos, Danielle Lavin-Loucks, and Marcus Martin
The J. McDonals Williams Institute
May 2007

Examines the evidence for the feminization of poverty and analyzes the factors that contribute to the phenomenon; provides a portrait of feminized poverty at national and local levels; examines the role of public policy in alleviating women’s poverty and proposes policies that could significantly reduce the magnitude of the feminization of poverty.

Two schools of thought on the reasons for the feminization of poverty:

The feminization of poverty exists because of significant changes in the family structure such that households headed by females are not only a larger proportion of households but also are disproportionately impacted by factors contributing to poverty compared with other types of households.

Structural changes in the economy have caused the displacement of many women into occupational sectors that are gender-specific, low-wage, and low-benefit employment opportunities—such as pinkcollar jobs. Moreover, the shift into a knowledge-based economy has meant that those females with the least educational attainment and the least work skills will be least likely to experience work opportunities that can effectively and permanently move them and their families out of poverty.

Our focus is on three broad public policy areas that can have a positive impact on moving female-headed households out of poverty and into the self-sufficiency:

1) Expanding educational opportunities
2) Livable wages
3) Equitable wages and occupational segregation

Full report.

Thanks and see you next month with more research from the Stepping Stones issue areas!

Taking The Women's Foundation to new heights in 2008!

How great it is to ring in 2008 at The Women’s Foundation!  I am thrilled to be here, and very much appreciate the warm, positive welcome I’ve received from everyone!  I can already tell that we’re in for a great year—and beyond!

When I look at the history of The Women’s Foundation, I see an organization where tremendous passion and inspiring vision meet a can-do, strategic spirit that makes things happen—and often in a way that is bigger, bolder and better than anyone ever imagined!

It is an honor for me to be here as the new leader of The Women’s Foundation, and I look forward to building on this rich history that has been created over the last decade by a committed community of visionaries and founders, board members, staff, volunteers, Grantee Partners, donors and investors, and women and girls throughout our region.

In just 10 short years, The Women’s Foundation has managed to build a strong foundation of innovation, inspiration and impact throughout our community.

From giving away more than $4 million dollars in grants to organizations that are making a real difference in the lives of women and girls to truly understanding the importance of “beyond the check” giving by providing capacity building funds to our Grantee Partners. From inspiring donors and supporters to get involved and change their communities in creative ways that tap into not only their wallets, but their talents.

As The Women’s Foundation’s next leader, I look forward to working with this amazing community to build on this foundation of leadership and impact—to take those areas where we have invested and to go deeper, to focus our vision to continue to build higher and higher on that foundation.  And with every new height we reach, we’ll be able to see even greater impact on the lives of the women and girls we serve!

2008 is going to be a transformative year for The Women’s Foundation, and will be just the beginning of many more years of continuing success, growth, vision and impact as we celebrate our 10th anniversary.

I can’t wait to get started, and I look forward to working with you to make our collective investments in the women and girls of our region grow to new heights, and to transforming the future for every woman in this region!

As I settle in, I look forward to meeting with and learning from the many corners of our broad, diverse community. Please don’t hesitate to get in touch with me if you have a suggestion, idea or story to share!  I can be reached at pcaldwell@wawf.org and look forward to working with you!

Economic security: looking beyond income to assets.

Today, the Urban Institute posted more of the answer in their report, The Balance Sheets of Low-Income Households: What We Know About Their Assets and Liabilities.

The report explores the balance sheets of low-income households, and evaluates their assets and debts–a critical piece in building true economic security.  Often, people consider income as a sign of economic security, but income is just money that flows into a household and then right back out.

Assets describe those critical savings and investments that enable an individual or family to build wealth over time and to guard against unknowns like unemployment, illness or disability.

For a recent example of what happens when a family doesn’t have a strong base of assets and then suddenly loses their income, check out one of Will Smith’s most recent films.

Even someone earning $100,000 a year in income, if some of that isn’t being turned into savings and assets, won’t fare well for very long should s/he suddenly be unable to work. 

Just like an illness can brew under the surface, without symptoms for a long while, so too can financial insecurity. 

And yet, according to the report, much of the policy around alleviating poverty focuses on increasing income, and meeting basic consumption needs, but not on savings and building assets.  Asset-building economic policy does not tend to benefit low-income families, the report says, for three primary reasons:

  • First, this population is less likely to own homes, investments, or retirement accounts, where most asset-based policies are targeted.
  • Second, with little or no federal income tax liability, the low-income have little or no tax incentives, or other incentives, for asset accumulation.
  • Third, asset limits in means-tested transfer policies have the potential to discourage saving by the low-income population. In many respects, this population does not have access to the same structures and incentives for asset accumulation.

So, who are these families, and how do their assets and debts balance out?  A few findings from the report:

Low income families:

  • The typical bottom quintile family may own a car valued at $4,500 and hold a checking or savings account valued at $600. 
  • Most families do not own a home, have no retirement account, and have no business equity.
  • Social Security and Medicare, if considered wealth, comprise roughly 90 percent of expected wealth for low-income families.


  • The typical bottom quintile family may hold debt valued at $7,000, one-sixth the amount of debt that most third quintile families hold. Bottom quintile family debt is most likely to be credit card debt valued at $1,000, installment loans valued at $5,600, and home-secured debt valued at $37,000.
  • 27 percent of bottom quintile families made debt service payments that exceeded 40 percent of family income. 

The combination of assets and liabilities for bottom quintile families results in median net worth valued at $7,500, nearly one-tenth the net worth of third quintile families.

Single-headed families: 

  • The typical single-headed family may own a home worth $120,000, a car valued at $7,600, and hold a checking or savings account valued at $2,000.
  • In total, a typical single-headed family may own assets worth $83,400, or less than one-third of the assets owned by the typical married or cohabiting family.
  • Most singleheaded families do not own any retirement accounts, financial assets beyond their checking or savings account, or any business equity.


  • The typical single-headed family may hold debt valued at $24,000, a little more than a quarter of the debt that most married or cohabiting families hold. The reason for the disparity is that, very similar to less-educated families, only 32 percent of single-headed families owe mortgage debt compared with 59 percent of married or cohabiting families.
  • The typical debts owed by a single-headed family, therefore, are most likely to be credit card debt valued at $1,000 or installment loan debt valued at $8,600. 

The combination of assets and liabilities for single families results in median net worth valued at $40,000, or about one-fourth the net worth of married or cohabiting families. The net worth gap by marital status starts out small at younger ages and then widens sharply with age.

Nonwhite or Hispanic families:

  • The typical family headed by someone who is a nonwhite or Hispanic owns a vehicle worth $9,800 and a checking or savings account worth $1,500, compared to the typical white non-Hispanic headed family who owns a vehicle worth $15,700 and a checking or savings account worth $5,000.
  • This nonwhite or Hispanic headed family may own a home worth $130,000 or a retirement account worth $16,000.
  • A typical nonwhite or Hispanic headed family holds total assets worth $60,000, or a little more than a quarter of the assets held by a white non-Hispanic headed family ($224,500). While only 49 percent of nonwhite or Hispanic headed families do not own a home, 67 percent have no retirement account and 94 percent have no business equity.


  • The typical nonwhite or Hispanic headed family holds debt valued at $30,500, less than half of the debt that most white non-Hispanic families hold, or $69,500.
  • Nonwhite or Hispanic headed family debt is somewhat more likely to be credit card debt valued at $1,600 or installment loan debt valued at $9,600, than mortgage debt.

The combination of assets and liabilities for nonwhite or Hispanic headed families results in median net worth valued at $25,000, less than one-sixth the net worth of white non-Hispanic-headed families.

The report explains the value of looking at these numbers in evaluating financial security–and policies to help build it, particularly among low-income families–saying, "Building assets and avoiding excessive debt can help low-income families insure against unforeseen disruptions, achieve economic independence, and improve socio-economic status."

The key (or the Stepping Stones if one were to be shamefully self-promoting) to true long-term social change then–within individuals, within families, within communities–lies not only in getting families into better, more high paying jobs, but into helping them grow their assets by paying down debt, buying homes and increasing savings and other investments.

Just ask Coach Tate with the Marshall Heights Community Development Organization or check in with Capital Area Asset Builders.  They’re helping women in our area do this every day, and are seeing their self-worth grow right along with their net worth as they achieve their goals and dreams.

Phyllis Caldwell is New at the Top!

2008 is a new year for us all, and particularly for The Women’s Foundation as we head into it with a new leader at the top! 

The Washington Post highlighted Phyllis’ appointment with The Women’s Foundation and her career to date in their New at the Top column on New Year’s Eve.  Check it out here online, or as a PDF here.

In the piece, Phyllis discusses her childhood roots in social action and philanthropy, the transition from the corporate world to that of a small foundation (us!), the five themes she carries with her always, her respect for the importance of risk-taking and her take on how the corporate world, government and the philanthropic sectors must all work together if meaningful social change is to be achieved.

Phyllis says, "It’s very easy in business to talk about earnings growth and shareholder returns; in philanthropy, talking about the mission; and in government, the spending and voter initiatives. It’s much more complex to have the three working together around a common goal. And I think one of the things that motivate many of us in the community development industry is the change that can happen when we have the power of these three working together."

See what else Phyllis has to say, and what everyone is saying about her and The Women’s Foundation right here.

What's the state of (women's) philanthropy in our region?

Washington Grantmakers just released its annual giving report, "Our Region, Our Giving 2007."

I haven’t had a chance to look over the whole report yet, but I did have a chance to steal some stats from their blog.

It seems that investing in the Washington metropolitan region is taking off, even if Newsweek is talking up giving globally this week.

According to the annual giving report, in our area:

  • National foundations have more than tripled their investments in our region, with $1.5 billion today compared to $407 million in 1992;
  • Local foundations are investing 63% of their philanthropic dollars in this region – a significant rise from only 46% fifteen years before; and,
  • The assets of the region’s community foundations have grown from $31.5 million to $412.5 million.

Nothing to shake a stick at.

And just to round it out, here are some figures on how the philanthropic landscape looks in our region when seen through a gender lens–from our 2003 Portrait Project.

  • Women-led foundations oversaw more than $141.2 million in giving in 2001.  However, analysis of 12,000 grants made in 2003 by the top 100 foundations showed that of the $441 million in grants paid, only $30.7 million–or 7%–went to women’s and girls’ programs (a trend still reflected nationally as of 2006)Of those, only about half went to organizations in the region.
  • Only 2.86%of grants made by foundations formed between 1996 and 2003 in the Washington metropolitan area currently with assets of at least $1 million went to women’s and girls’ programs.
  • Women lead 28 percent of the largest foundations established in the region since 1996.
  • Women play a significant role in the management of the top 100 foundations, directly leading 34 of them and serving on the boards of 85 in 2003.

Now, I know you’re wondering…where does Washington Area Women’s Foundation fit into all of this after being around for nearly a decade?

Washington Area Women’s Foundation:

  • is the only donor-supported public foundation in the region that works to improve the lives of low-income women and girls and to increase philanthropy by all women (i.e. 100% of our grantmaking is devoted to improving the lives of women and girls).
  • The Women’s Foundation currently provides more than $1 million annually in grantmaking devoted to women and girls in our region.
  • Since 1998, The Women’s Foundation has provided more than $4.1 million in grants to more than 100 outstanding Grantee Partners throughout our region, all working to change the lives of women and girls.
  • The Women’s Foundation is one of the fastest growing women’s funds in the country.

And that’s after just 10 short years.  Just imagine what we’ll do in the next 10. 

We’re more motivated than ever, particularly given the ever-increasing importance of focusing grantmaking, strategy, discussion and advocacy on the needs of our region’s women and girls. 

Because women and girls are worth way more than just 8%.  So, to make up the difference, we’re giving them 110% and growing, and changing the lives of everyone involved along the way.