Am I better off alone? This can be a deep existential question with lots of teeth-gnashing and tears, but it also becomes a very pragmatic question for women over 40 (like me). As a social justice advocate, I have had many job in which I was underpaid (anti-war community organizer, public interest law office paralegal, etc.). Likewise, as a social worker and a female, I have been in roles with deep pay inequities (such as the $25,000 gap between me (a women’s center director with on-call responsibilities to aid rape victim/survivors working 60 plus hours/week) and my fellow student affairs colleagues came in at 10, ate long lunches, and left at 5 with occasional weekend/night hours(again, making an average of $25K a year more than me. Hmph!).
As the oldest child in a poor New England family, I was expected to go to college and pay for it. Because I was not considered an emancipated minor, it was expensive. I have spent the past two decades paying off my student loan debt …
However, I am newly, joyfully debt-free (wooohooo!!!!!) – no student loan debt, I paid off my car note, and I have no other outstanding major debts (the credit card could use a little cleaning up!). So, now, I turn my eyes to that most tantalizing aspect of the American dream: home ownership. Real estate (cheering in the background; is this how Trump got elected president? he is the embodiment of this America obsession?)…
I’m not sure how long it will take me to save enough to put 20% down on a home (to avoid paying PMI and to be able to pay it off before I’m 75!). And I am thinking about all of the single women who are living their lives, many raising children alone, who also need safe, affordable housing, a way to manage for retirement, and reliable protection from severe storms and flooding.
According to recent census data, ” Among today’s growing single population, 63 percent have never been married, 23 percent are divorced, and 13 percent are widowed”. Of that staggering single population, the majority of which are living independently of their own accord, 53 percent of singles are women.
And, single women outnumber married women in the U.S. Why does this matter? Single women in the U.S. are outpacing single men in home purchases, even though we often lack the capital to afford many of the houses that are available for purchase. Single women face obstacles such as being able to save for a down payment alone, the need for housing where they feel safe, less housing maintenance, and the need for community.
In addition, approximately 41% of births in the U.S. today are to single mothers, 23% of households are led by single moms, and these families are most at risk for living in poverty. It seems that we are moving through a societal shift that will require new ways of approaching child care, wage distribution, and you got it, community-centered affordable housing!