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 in the technology industry, and are at an increased risk of committing suicide, according to the report's findings.
To measure the well-being of women today and in the past, the bureau used a system of 14 points, including health, education, teen births, maternal mortality rates, cigarette smoking, earning capacity, and incarceration rates. The bureau then compared their calculations to previous generations and were subsequently shocked by the results.
“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."
Women of the baby-boom generation experienced a 66 percent increase in their overall well-being over women born in the era before World War II. Generation X did not fair nearly as well as their mother's, but still experienced an overall 2 percent gain in well-being.
In stark contrast, the well-being of millennial women dropped by 1 percent. African-American women, indigenous American women, and Latinas are at an increased likelihood to feel the brunt of this overall decline.
One example of how the millennial generation's well-being has shifted can be found in poverty rates; the rate of women living in poverty between the ages of 30 to 34 has climbed to 17 percent, a 5 percent increase from Generation X.
The erosion of federal protections in place to safeguard women have contributed to this decline, the study indicated. Violence against women, the depleted social safety net, and the stagnation of women's economic security since the mid-1990s have all worked together to create a less supportive environment for young American women today, particularly for those who do not have a college degree. Even those who managed to get a degree did so during a tough economic time in history after growing up in a a historic recession, severe 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 up-ticks, 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. With increased representation in Congress for women, there remains reason to hope, but it would be foolish to rely on that as women only account for 19.4 percent of the congressional body.
Women have only ever made progress when they are kicking and screaming from the ground up. So, ladies, start losing it.
Banner and thumbnail credit: Flickr user George Laoutaris