Reviewed by Danielle Kraten
In Your Money and Your Life, Martha Burk demonstrates how "money" and "life" are inextricably linked -- and, at least for women in these discouraging times, not in a good way. Consider a few of her factoids:
• Women are 32 percent more likely than men to be targeted for sub-prime loans.
• Nearly 70 percent of adult food-stamp beneficiaries are female.
• Women one year out of college make 80% of men's earnings. After ten years, they make 69%.
• Women who lose their jobs because of domestic violence, harassment or stalking are not covered by unemployment insurance.
A political psychologist and women's equity expert who co-founded the Center for Advancement of Public Policy in Washington, D.C., and directs the Corporate Accountability Project for the National Council of Women's Organizations, Burk wrote Your Money and Your Life as a wake-up call. She describes how the gender gap, first identified by NOW President Eleanor Smeal during the 1980 elections, has influenced elections in one way or another since the Reagan era. Laying out the evidence that women have the power to change the status quo through their votes, she challenges the reader to do just that.
Burk shows that despite the United States' reputation as the land of opportunity, it lags behind other developed nations in guaranteeing the rights of women and children to proper education, access to jobs, healthcare and basic safety. Easily digested but thorough, her book alternates between issues of money (the economy, taxes, pay equity, social security) and life (reproductive rights, health care, long term care), and uncovers the political quicksand that causes women to lose their economic footing.
The cycle goes like this: A lack of affirmative action means women are limited in their access to higher education. Entering the job market, they start at lower-paying jobs, and when the time comes, they collect less Social Security -- especially detrimental as the retirement program serves as women's main source of income in old age. Their lower rate of contribution to Social Security is compounded by the fact that when children or other relatives fall ill, it's usually the woman in the family who takes time off work to care for them. Health care costs more for women; they pay about 68 percent more out-of-pocket than men -- mostly on contraception. Increased government funding for abstinence-only sex education means women aren't given the medically accurate information that would enable them to avoid unwanted (and financially disastrous) pregnancies.
Burk dissects the often-deceptive arguments used by anti-women's-rights candidates to further their agendas and ends each chapter with a series of questions for readers to ask their candidates. She doesn't judge which answers have more merit -- that's up to you -- but Your Money and Your Life is a tool that will help you see through the statements of candidates and talking-heads and make an informed decision come election day.
Danielle Kraten is a frequent contributor to Ms. magazine.
Books mentioned in this post