For decades, women from a diverse array of backgrounds have made important strides toward bettering their own lives while paving the way for a more promising future for little girls.
However, a recent report by the Population Reference Bureau shows that the effects of their efforts have reached a plateau, and young American women are being impacted in staggering ways.
Millennial women are poorer than their mothers and grandmothers were at their age, more likely to be denied higher paying jobs - especially in the technology industry, and are at an increased risk of committing suicide.
To measure the overall well-being of women both today and in the past, the bureau studied 14 points including education, teen births, maternal mortality rates, and earning potential, among others. When they compared their calculations to the results of previous generations, the bureau was shocked.
“We expected to see that there would be certain subgroups of women that would be doing much worse than others," Mark Mather, associate vice president of United States programs at the bureau, told The LA Times, "but we were surprised to find that women overall were doing worse than the previous generation."
The baby-boom generation experienced a 66 percent increase in their quality of life, a notable up-tick from women born in the era before World War II. Generation X did not experience the same level of progressive change as their mother's, but their overall well-being still rose by 2 percent.
In stark contrast, the well-being of millennial women dropped by 1 percent with African-American women, indigenous American women, and Latinas most likey to feel the brunt of this overall decline.
One example of how the millennial generation has shifted for the worse can be found in poverty rates; 17 percent of women between the ages of 30 to 34 live in poverty, a 5 percent increase from Generation X. The report also found that the maternal death rate today is rising above previous generations.
Lawmakers chipping away at the federal protections in place to safeguard women has contributed to this overall decline, the study indicated. Women have also made little forward movement in the way of economic stability and security over the past two decades and, combined with rates of violence against women, America has become a much less supportive environment for young women, particularly for those who do not have a college degree. Senior Director the the Center for American Progress Women's Initiative Shilpa Phadke noted that even those who managed to get a degree did so during a historic recession and their job prospects were severely hampered upon leaving university, limitations that they're still struggling to make up for.
“We have been pushed back, there’s no question,” said Terry O’Neill, president of the National Organization for Women, to The LA Times. “Younger women are really feeling the effects of ... a 30-year march to dismantle government agencies, to dismantle government protections, all in the name of free markets.”
While the report also noted positive trends, like the number of women with bachelor's degrees, fewer high school dropouts, and historically low teenage birth rates, the results were dauntingly negative overall. Women have more seats in Congress, but they still only account for 19.4 percent of the congressional body and if the necessary policy changes are going to be made to support the next generation of women, we need more.
Banner and thumbnail credit: Flickr user George Laoutaris