Shortchanged: Why Women Have Less Wealth and What Can Be Done about It

Shortchanged: Why Women Have Less Wealth and What Can Be Done about It

Shortchanged: Why Women Have Less Wealth and What Can Be Done about It

Shortchanged: Why Women Have Less Wealth and What Can Be Done about It


Women now receive more college degrees than men, and enter the workforce with better job opportunities than ever before. Indeed, the wage gap between men and women has never been smaller. So why does the typical woman have only 36 cents for every dollar of wealth owned by the typical man? How is it that never-married women working full-time have only 16% as much wealth as similarly situated men? And why do single mothers have only 8% of the wealth of single fathers?

The first book to focus on the differences in wealth between women and men,Shortchangedis a compelling and accessible examination of why women struggle to accumulate assets, who has what, and why it matters. Mariko Lin Chang draws on the most comprehensive national data on wealth and on in-depth interviews to show how differences in earnings, in saving and investing, and, most important, the demands of care-giving all contribute to the gender-wealth gap. She argues that the current focus on equal pay and family-friendly workplace policies, although important, will not ultimately change or eliminate wealth inequalities. What Chang calls the "wealth escalator"--comprised of fringe benefits, the tax code, and government benefits--and the "debt anchor" must be the targets of policies aimed at strengthening women's financial resources. Chang proposes a number of practical suggestions to address the unequal burdens and consequences of care-giving, so that women who work just as hard as men will not be left standing in financial quicksand.

A comprehensive portrait of where women and men stand with respect to wealth,Shortchangednot only sheds light on why women lack wealth, but also offers solutions for improving the financial situation of women, men, and families.


So signing this bill today is to send a clear message: That making our economy work means
making sure it works for everybody. That there are no second class citizens in our workplaces, and
that it’s not just unfair and illegal—it’s bad for business—to pay somebody less because of their
gender, or their age, or their race, or their ethnicity, religion, or disability.

—President Barack Obama

ON JANUARY 29, 2009, President Obama signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act into law. The legislation derives its name from a supervisor at a tire factory in Alabama who, after almost 20 years of employment, received an anonymous note containing the salaries of three other male supervisors. At that time, the sole woman among sixteen supervisors, Ledbetter was the lowest paid person in her position, earning $3,727 per month. Salaries for . . .

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