Monday, April 13, 2015

Poor Women in Rich Countries: Sweden

Another chapter summary, this time about the study on Sweden:
  • Low poverty by any measure because basic services and wealth transfers are provided to lift most people to the level of 50-60% of median income.
  • This was accomplished to a significant degree through a focus on the right to work (attempted universal employment).
  • Lots of parents--mothers and fathers--are paid to stay home with their infants for more than a month, however there are many pressures and incentives for both parents to work. Sweden isn't the best place for someone who wants to be a full-time stay at home mom or dad (I think there are many part-time SAHMs, still). That said, the U.S. may not be statistically very different, and public support services for working parents (whatever your income level) are much better than in the U.S.
  • Guaranteed child support (the state pays "alimony" whether or not the father pays the state) for solo mothers, and payed time off to care for sick children (used more by solo mothers than any other group) have prevented poverty for many solo mothers.
  • Sweden did away with the legal concept of illegitimacy, and all children have the same rights, whatever their parentage.
  • Lower economic barriers for divorce (women aren't afraid they will be poor if they leave an unhappy marriage), and increased acceptance of cohabitation (among other factors) have increased the number of unmarried parents. About 25% of households are single parent households. About 1/3 of the remaining households are cohabiting, two-parent households. [Again, I wonder how statistically different this is from the U.S.?]
  • Benefit cuts in 1990s-2000s hit unemployed people harder than others, and single parents were more likely to be unemployed (30% unemployed part of the year and for longer periods than other households in the late 90s, higher rates of temporary employment, more with two jobs, more working and looking for work at the same time, and more leaving the labor market).
  • Early 1990s, 6% of unemployed solo mothers were in poverty, and less than 1% of employed solo mothers were in poverty. In 2000, 4% of employed solo mothers were poor, and even more unemployed were poor.
  • Risk factors for poverty (among solo mothers, in particular, but some are general)
    • never married/cohabiting higher risk than divorced or separated. Married mothers were more likely to have been integrated into the labor market and to receive significant parental leave benefits and guaranteed work after leave, even if they were currently divorced.
    • young children was the strongest factor (ages 1-3)
    • number of children was significant, with 4+ more likely to correlate with poverty
    • being an immigrant
  • Elderly women still have very low poverty rates, even if their income is roughly 60% that of elderly men.
  • Both solo mothers and elderly women have fared pretty well in Sweden, even though recent policies have created some increased disparity in gender income. More women are close to the poverty line, but not many more are below it. Immigrants are the group that is suffering the most poverty, currently, in Sweden.

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