Status of Women: More Ohio women with children working but also more likely to live in poverty

Access to economic resources is a critical component of stability, health, wellness, and agency. Historically, the distribution of economic resources is tied to distribution of power. This legacy of inequality is one of the reasons it is important to continue to monitor and report on the economic status of women. The 2023 Status of Women Fact Sheets provides data for each of the 88 counties in Ohio that illustrates the economic realities of women across Ohio.

Labor force participation and gender wage gap in Ohio

Examining the labor force participation among women in Ohio tells us who is working, how much they are earning and whether their earnings are keeping pace with their male counterparts. While there has been improvement in women’s wages there is not yet parity between the compensation of working men and women of Ohio.

While there has been improvement in women’s wages there is not yet parity between the compensation of working men and women of Ohio.

Labor force participation includes employed people aged 16 and older and those looking for work. It does not include anyone who is unemployed and not actively looking for employment.

  • For workers aged 16-24, women participate in the labor force at higher rates than men
  • The opposite is true for all other age groups: men aged 25-44, 45-64, and 65 and older participate in the labor force at higher rates than women

Median earnings for women in the labor force full-time year-round in Ohio is $44,230, which is 78.5% of the median earnings for men. Although still a significant wage gap, the gap between what men and women earn working in the same occupation has shrunk by 2.4% in Ohio in the past five years. For example, in healthcare support occupations, positions which are mostly filled by women, the median earnings for men in 2016 was almost $4,000 more than the median earnings for women. In 2021, the difference in median earnings had shrunk to $3,500, representing a lessening of the wage gap by 2.9%.

In 29 of Ohio’s 88 counties—a third—the overall wage gap has widened in the past five years.

This trend is not universal. In 29 of Ohio’s 88 counties—a third—the overall wage gap has widened in the past five years. When considering statewide numbers, there are no occupations in Ohio in which women earn more than men on average. In some counties, however, there are occupations in which women are earning more than men on average.

In Ohio, the occupations with the smallest wage gap between men and women are:

  • community and social service occupations
  • arts, design, entertainment, sports, and media occupations
  • food preparation and serving-related occupations

Each of these occupations is at the lower end of earning potential, with food preparation and serving-related occupations having the lowest median earnings.

Conversely, the occupation with the highest median earnings is legal occupations, which is also the occupation category with the widest wage gap between men and women. Ohio women only earn 57.3 cents of every dollar men earn in legal occupations.

Ohio women only earn 57.3 cents of every dollar men earn in legal occupations.

Mothers in Ohio are in the labor force at higher rates than nationally

Childcare remains an obstacle to women’s participation in the labor force. While some women choose to opt out of the labor force during early parenthood, other women are forced out of the labor force due to a lack of available childcare.

Data from the 2010s demonstrates this reality for working women. Unfortunately, accurate and recent costs of childcare is not available; the National Database of Childcare Prices has not been updated since 2018. Data at that time indicated that 39% of all Ohioans were living in a childcare desert, which is defined as an area with three times as many children as licensed childcare slots. The pandemic and inflation have only exacerbated the challenge and burden of securing and affording childcare.

Labor force participation rates increase for women who only have school-aged children, perhaps due to a lessened need for childcare once their children are in school. Looking broadly at workforce, women with children in Ohio participate at higher rates than women with children, nationally. This is true for women with children preschool-aged, children school-aged, and children both preschool-aged and school-aged.

Having children increases the likelihood of living in poverty by four-fold

Female-headed households make up 32% of all households in Ohio, yet account for 59% of the households in poverty. In all but three counties (Athens, Paulding, and Van Wert), female-headed households experience poverty at higher rates than male-headed households. In Noble and Ottawa County, female-headed household experience poverty at rates 14 and 20 times higher than male-headed households.

In every county, female-headed households with children experience poverty at higher rates than female-headed households without children.

In every county, female-headed households with children experience poverty at higher rates than female-headed households without children. Female-headed households are more than three times as likely as all Ohio households to live in poverty, and having children in the household increases the likelihood of living in poverty by four-fold.

At the state level, poverty rates are similar for men and women under age 18, but higher for women for all other age groups. The disparity is greatest in the “childbearing years” of 18-44, with 17.3% of women in this age group living in poverty. Girls under 18 have the highest rates (18.5%) of poverty among women.

Women in Ohio face a myriad of challenges, including economic ones. While the wage gap is shrinking overall, women still earn less than men on average. This decreases their ability to build wealth and achieve economic security and stability. Women with children, particularly those who are not financially paired with another adult, face greater obstacles in finding childcare, joining the labor force, and earning at the same rate as their childless, male, or partnered peers. Finding ways to support these women will increase both their individual economic security and strengthen the economic fabric of the entire community.