The Republican Debt Ceiling Proposal Saves the Economy on the Backs of Latinas

by | May 12, 2023 | Commentary, Featured

It is May. In the U.S., Italy, Japan, Mexico, and many other countries, it is a month that celebrates mothers. Deconstructed, it heralds women bearing and caring for children to ensure the health and welfare of the family.

For many, celebrating Mother’s Day means acknowledging women’s pivotal role in ensuring their family functions and that children and other dependents are cared for.

However, the celebration proceeds with the recognition that familial and child-rearing responsibilities are disproportionately the responsibility of women.

Elected officials love to espouse the virtues of family caregiving and the value of motherhood. Unfortunately, too many policies fail to help families and do not ensure that they thrive.

It is even more glaring that so many policies fail to support mothers.

We can see how this lack of support plays out over the political jockeying around the debt ceiling. The Republican-proposed spending cuts will impact mothers, children, and families disproportionately. It negatively impacts those families headed by a woman.

Latinas will be hardest hit.

Latinas will be disproportionately impacted because of their earned wages, overrepresentation in the childcare labor sector, and an already high labor force participation rate. As of 2020, they have a 13% higher fertility rate than the overall U.S. fertility rate. Latinas have a fertility rate that is 9% higher than Black women. The Latina fertility rate is 19% higher for white women and 21% higher for Asian women.

Some of the cuts in support for mothers, children, and families Republicans demand for raising the debt ceiling are spending cuts in social welfare programs for low-income families, childcare subsidies, and childcare slots.

Their proposal would add a work requirement for those who receive public assistance.

Supplemental nutrition programs for women, infants, and children would mean almost 2 million lose those benefits.

The proposed cuts to rental assistance would catapult more than 600,000 families at risk for homelessness.

An untold number of mothers and children would lose access to mental health services.

Students with disabilities would see program cuts to services and teachers.

College would become more expensive for low-income students due to the proposed reduction in the maximum award for Pell Grants.

College debt relief would be nonexistent.

Workforce development services would be cut for nearly 3/4 million workers.

While there is no doubt these cuts will hurt mothers and children in all racial and ethnic groups, Latinas will bear the brunt of these consequences if the Republican demands are accepted.

As noted by a report from IJEC, “Latinas are more affected by the gender wage gap than any other major racial or ethnic group in the U.S. labor market.” The median income for Latinas in 2021 was nearly 15% lower than for Black women, 30% lower than for white women, 41% lower than for Asian women, and 59% lower than that of white men.

Latinas are a growing and critical segment of the labor market. Latinos are 18% of the U.S. population. Latinas are more than 17% of all women in today’s labor force. Recent data show that Latinas have a higher labor force participation rate than white women — more than 2/3 of Latinas in the labor force work full time. Latina mothers’ labor force participation rate currently stands at 62.8% — and is increasing.

Latinas are overrepresented in low-wage jobs. This means Latinas are in a permanent state of working poverty: nearly 8.7% of Latinas working 27 hours a week or more live below the poverty line.

Cutting childcare subsidies will mean cutting the jobs of childcare providers. Latinas will bear the brunt of the job cuts.

About 20% of childcare providers are Latina, 88% higher than the corresponding rate for Blacks, and nearly 102% higher than for Asians. Between 2010 and 2021, the percentage of childcare workers who are white, Black, or Asian has declined while the rate of Latina childcare workers has risen by nearly 18%.

If you cut childcare subsidies, you hurt all working, poor women. That blow is especially detrimental for Latinas. Many Latina childcare workers will lose their jobs. Because of their relatively high fertility rate and rate of participation in the labor force, many Latina mothers will lose access to childcare.

With the incongruity between the proposed cuts in childcare on the one hand and the reality of who is working on the other, we are still waiting for an answer to an urgent question: who will care for the children?

In this month of celebrating mothers, we have a Republican proposal to ensure that the country does not default on its debt that takes food, jobs, childcare, housing subsidies, and access to needed mental and educational services away from mothers, their children, and families.

While claiming to support families, the Republican proposal actually undermines their ability to thrive.

And Latina mothers may find that instead of being supported, they are being threatened.



Noreen M. Sugrue is currently the Director of Research at the Latino Policy Forum. Before joining the Latino Policy Forum, she was a professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She is the author or co-author of many articles and book chapters. Her international and domestic research focuses on immigration, immigrants, gender, health care, and the workforce centering on inequity, inequality, and distributive justice. In addition, she analyzes and evaluates the construction and implementation of social policies to address and redress inequities.


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