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Economists Say Low-Income Renters Are Experiencing a 'She-Cession'

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX) -- Women are leaving the workforce in droves and the pandemic-induced recession is now being referred to as a "she-cession" by economists. High housing costs in the Bay Area plus a lack of child care are forcing low-income moms to make tough choices.

"Having both my kids around all the time has been challenging," Danika Dellor said, she's the executive director of Wanda, a nonprofit that helps low-income women fund their retirement, buy a home or go back to school but most women she serves who were on an upward trajectory at the start of 2020 now find themselves stalled.

"So now you have, your kid is out of school you might be in school while still sort of part time working and how do you now, how do you balance your own virtual education, your kids and maintain your jobs?" Dellor asked.

As you might imagine in the Bay Area not having an income for most single moms simply isn't an option.

"When you think about single parent families, 80% are women and a big percentage of them live in poverty already," Dellor said.

Many of them are also rent burdened which means they're paying more than 30% of their income towards rent. Researchers at Zillow found 45% of female headed households are rent burdened, compare that with 36% of men. For women of color that number jumps up to 51%.

"You can imagine retail food services, hospitality, a lot of people there are renters and a lot of people that work in those industries are also women and so women, renters in particular, were really impacted," Cheryl Young a senior economist at Zillow said.

Young's team found childcare is the number one reason so many women are leaving work.

"So you can imagine they're really having to kind of make this tradeoff between, you know, getting their livelihood or sort of making sure their children are taken care of," Young said.

More than one million people left the workforce in September alone, 80% of them were women, 22% of women had to leave work because they lacked childcare compared to 7% of men. Women are also much more likely to be single parents who rent.

Young and Dellor worry this pandemic will eventually push low-income women out of the region or onto the street.

"There's something that's still kind of broken in the system where women still take on dual roles. I've had friends who are also an equitable job positions, but for some reason they're still picking up a lot of the brunt of the home," Dellor said.

"We really have to make sure that there's a big step up from the federal government to make sure people can stay in their homes, that people aren't in a situation and that becomes really dire or especially for women," Young said.

Economists say solutions must be both short-term and long-term. In the short term, renters who are out of work need financial assistance from the federal government, but in the long term more women need affordable housing and access to childcare.

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