That’s how much single women have for every dollar of wealth owned by their male counterparts. The disparity is much greater for single women of color, who have only pennies on the dollar compared to single white men.
The gender wage gap receives significant attention, which is important. We know women make, on average, 80 cents on the dollar compared to men. But less understood and perhaps even more concerning is the gender wealth gap, the discrepancies in net worth between men and women.
The statistics, like those above, are overwhelming. In 2013, the median net worth for single black women in the United States was just $200. For single Latina women, it was half that — a staggering $100.
While by definition wealth is the difference between a person’s assets and liabilities, our real-life experiences with wealth mean so much more. Wealth is the ability to pay for an emergency or other unexpected expense, the freedom to buy a home or pursue higher education, the security of saving for retirement. In short, wealth offers stability and opportunity.
Women suffer greatly from the negative consequences of lower net worth. They have less of a safety net and are more financially vulnerable. In fact, women are 80 percent more likely than men to live in poverty after retirement, according to the National Institute on Retirement Security.
In an effort to better understand the gender wealth gap and some of its drivers, the JPMorgan Chase Institute examined the gender gap in financial outcomes and the impact of extraordinary medical payments on the long-term financial wellbeing of more than 210,000 de-identified Chase checking account holders. According to the findings, women have 20 percent lower liquid assets and higher debt burdens than men.
Women also have a harder time regaining their financial footing after they pay an extraordinary medical bill. Every year, roughly 16 percent of American families make an unusually large medical payment, one that represents more than 1 percent of their annual income and is at least $400. The Institute found that women are more likely than men to postpone paying these larger medical bills until they experience a spike in liquid assets.
This suggests women are either postponing medical care until they can afford it — which could harm their physical health — or they are receiving the care as required but delaying payment, falling behind on their bills and potentially wreaking havoc on their finances.
The Institute’s data indicates that both men and women struggle to recover from unusually large medical payments; 12 months later families experience lower incomes, decreasing liquid assets and increasing revolving credit card debt. However, the financial fallout is far worse for women. One year after an extraordinary medical payment, women experience a 14 percent increase in the balance on their revolving credit card debt as compared to a 3 percent increase for men, further widening the gender wealth gap.
Collaboration and support are critical to addressing the issue. One example of a company working toward progress is JPMorgan Chase, which invested $17 million last year in organizations that empower women by focusing on four critical areas:
· Financial health: Providing access to relevant financial information, products and services that can empower women to better manage daily finances, weather emergencies and other unexpected expenses like medical payments, and meet long-term financial goals such as homeownership or retirement.
· Access to capital: Helping female entrepreneurs secure capital and technical assistance, and connecting them to the professional networks they need to launch and grow small businesses.
· Workforce development: Helping women gain the skills to compete for the millions of “middle-skill” jobs that are currently unfilled, like cardiovascular technologists and dental hygienists. These jobs pay good wages and are accessible with a high school degree and some post-secondary training.
· Community development: Creating inclusive neighborhoods where women have access to economic opportunity and affordable housing, supportive services and chances to build stability and wealth.
The challenge ahead is daunting, but together we can help improve women’s financial health and, in turn, increase the security of women and their families.