Institute for Women's Policy Research

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The Institute for Women's Policy Research (IWPR) is an organization founded in 1987 by Heidi Hartmann to meet the need for women-centered, policy-oriented research.[1]

IWPR focuses on issues of poverty and welfare, employment and earnings, work and family issues, health and safety, and women's civic and political participation.

The Institute works with policymakers, scholars, and public interest groups around the country to design, execute, and disseminate research that illuminates economics and social policy issues affecting women and families. IWPR seeks to build a network of individuals and organizations that conduct and use women-oriented policy research. As an independent, non-profit, research organization, IWPR also works in affiliation with the graduate programs in public policy and women's studies at The George Washington University.

IWPR's work is supported by foundation grants, government grants and contracts, donations from individuals, and contributions from organizations. Members and affiliates of IWPR's Information Network receive reports and information on a regular basis. IWPR is a 501(c) (3) tax-exempt organization.

Mission Statement[edit]

The Institute for Women’s Policy Research conducts rigorous research and disseminates its findings to address the needs of women, promote public dialog, and strengthen families, communities, and societies.[2]

History[edit]

Co-founder and current IWPR President Heidi Hartmann, was driven to form the institute by her awareness of the persistence of gender-based economic injustice; an awareness fostered by her upbringing in a single-mother, single-income household. In its founding year, IWPR analyzed the costs to American workers of not having unpaid leave for childbirth, personal health needs, or family care giving in its inaugural publication, Unnecessary Losses: Costs to Americans of the Lack of Family and Medical Leave. Shortly after the launch of that project, IWPR testified before the U.S. Senate with unique findings. The research showed that—by not recognizing the need for work-life balance—established policies not only failed to support workers and their families, but were costly to taxpayers.

Six years later, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) was signed into law. Now twenty years old, FMLA has become a facet of U.S. employment law and human resource policy.

For 25 years, the Institute has filled a unique niche by speaking a language that policymakers and key leaders understand. IWPR has informed policy by putting relevant, high quality facts in the hands of thousands of local leaders and advocates, increasing their ability to shape and implement legislation that benefits women and their families. IWPR has published hundreds of reports, fact sheets, and research-in-briefs that place women as the central point of analysis. The research serves as a reliable resource to policymakers, providing background and context for present and future policy agendas impacting women in the United States and around the world. IWPR’s research addresses issues of race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status. In addition, IWPR research focuses specifically on policies that help or hurt women in their efforts to achieve social, economic, and political equality. Supported by the research, the Institute for Women’s Policy Research has become the preeminent organization informing and shaping private and public debates on the issues that matter most to women and their families.

Today, IWPR, in collaboration with its many partners and supporters, continues to contribute groundbreaking research to the policy discussion in an effort to eliminate gender based disparity.[3]

Program Areas[edit]

Employment, Economic Change & Education[edit]

IWPR examines the quality of jobs across a diverse range of workers and job types as well as produces research that explores access to employment benefits.

On average, Women earn less than men in virtually every single occupation for which there is sufficient data for both men and women to calculate an earnings ratio. IWPR tracks the gender wage gap over time. Given the existing gender wage gap, educational attainment is especially crucial for women, as women need more education to reach the same average income levels as men.

Democracy and Society[edit]

IWPR seeks to identify successful strategies to encourage women’s participation in civic and political life by analyzing data on a wide range of indicators at the local, state and federal levels.

Poverty, Welfare and Income Security[edit]

Around the world, research shows that women tend to be in poverty at greater rates than men. IWPR has served as a resource on women’s poverty issues by producing research on income security and suggesting improvements to planning and policies that take into consideration the welfare of women.

Work and Family[edit]

For most Americans, work and family go hand in hand. Early care and education programs are crucial to a thriving economy, not only because they allow parents to work, but because the child care sector is large and purchases numerous goods and services. IWPR aims to improve access to child care, measure workplace flexibility and determine whether the defining characteristics of a good job are being implemented in American society.

Health and Safety[edit]

Women have a set of specific concerns when it comes to health. More often than not, women make the majority of health care-related decisions regarding health issues for their families, are the primary caregivers, and spend more than their male counterparts on health (KFF 2009; Agency for 2004). IWPR’s research on women’s health and safety informs policy decisions by identifying gender and racial/ethnic disparities in health outcomes and access to health care services in addition to highlighting opportunities for improvement.

IWPR Projects and Initiatives[edit]

Status of Women in the States Reports[edit]

IWPR has analyzed data on a wide range of indicators at the local, state and federal levels, including demographics, economic security, educational attainment, reproductive rights, political participation, civic engagement, and access to health care and work support in order to publish a collection of comprehensive reports. Each report offers policy recommendations shaped by the research findings for that state, city or area.

Women and Social Security[edit]

Women are more likely to rely on Social Security because they have fewer alternative sources of income, often outlive their husbands, and are more likely to be left to rear children when their husbands die or become disabled. Specifically, adult women are 57 percent of all social security beneficiaries aged 65 and older. IWPR produces and disseminates materials to keep women involved on the ongoing Social Security debate and to ensure that women’s concerns are addressed when or if any changes to the system take place.

Student Parent Success Initiative[edit]

The Student Parent Success Initiative focuses on supporting students with dependent children who are pursuing college education. Funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the project gives IWPR the opportunity to initiate new research and foster communication and collaboration among advocates, policymakers, and practitioners invested in the success of student parents in postsecondary education.

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