LOS ANGELES - California's ongoing housing crisis is exacting an especially heavy toll on women of color, who face systemic barriers to opportunity in the Southland and elsewhere, including wage discrimination, biases in the workplace, unsafe transit options and a lack of access to affordable daycare, according to a USC study released Thursday.
"It's no surprise that the housing crisis is taking an extra toll on the most vulnerable members of our state, but the breadth of the impacts on women of color is alarming," said Prof. Ange-Marie Hancock Alfaro, chair of the Gender Studies Program at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences. "This report should be a wake-up call to our leaders that the fastest-growing constituency in our state is in urgent need of systemic reforms on urgent issues."
The report, "Finding and Staying Home: Women of Color in California's Housing Crisis," included extensive quantitative research and qualitative interviews with women of color across the state, who make up 30% of the total population in California.
The findings and recommendations include:
-- Closing the income gap: Closing the income gap would result in Latina women earning the financial equivalent of 30 months' worth of extra rent per year; for African American women, this figure is 20 months; for Asian women, 14 months;
-- Daycare is a top consideration in housing choice: Access to informal networks of daycare for young children is a leading indicator of housing choice among women of color, who often cannot afford formal daycare and so rely on friends, neighbors, and family to care for their children during working hours; and
-- Neighborhood safety is a prime consideration in housing choice: Women of color face a disproportionate share of violent crime in California, including as victims subject to attack on under-funded or otherwise poorly managed transit systems. Since these women are more likely to need safe transport for their children, in addition to themselves, policymakers should consider proactive measures that enhance the safety of existing and planned transit networks.
In addition, the report found that there are more than 2.2 million women of color living in state senate districts where women report feeling least safe, including urban areas like Los Angeles and San Francisco, as well as Central Valley locations like Kings and Kern counties.
Additional report findings reinforce the need for more affordable housing near safe, efficient and connected transportation networks, which would allow more women of color to access jobs and quality daycare without the financial and time burdens imposed by excessive car travel and lengthy commutes.
Access to quality educational resources for children is also a key consideration for California's women of color, suggesting that efforts to open exclusive neighborhoods to more housing could be the key to extending educational and other resources to residents looking for a pathway to opportunity for their families, the study found.