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Shortchanged: Why women have less wealth and what can be done about it

Shortchanged Women now receive more college degrees than men, and enter the workforce with better job opportunities than ever before. Indeed, the wage gap between men and women has never been smaller. So why does the typical woman have only 36 cents for every dollar of wealth owned by the typical man? How is it that never-married women working full-time have only 16% as much wealth as similarly situated men? And why do single mothers have only 8% of the wealth of single fathers?

The first book to focus on the differences in wealth between women and men, Shortchanged is a compelling and accessible examination of why women struggle to accumulate assets, who has what, and why it matters. Mariko Lin Chang draws on the most comprehensive national data on wealth and on in-depth interviews to show how differences in earnings, in saving and investing, and, most important, the demands of care-giving all contribute to the women's wealth gap. She argues that the current focus on equal pay and family-friendly workplace policies, although important, will not ultimately change or eliminate wealth inequalities. What Chang calls the wealth escalator--comprised of fringe benefits, the tax code, and government benefits--and the debt anchor must be the targets of policies aimed at strengthening women's financial resources. Chang proposes a number of practical suggestions to address the unequal burdens and consequences of care-giving, so that women who work just as hard as men will not be left standing in financial quicksand.

A comprehensive portrait of where women and men stand with respect to wealth, Shortchanged not only sheds light on why women lack wealth, but also offers solutions for improving the financial situation of women, men, and families.

Table of Contents

1. The Women's Wealth Gap: What is it and why do we care?
2. Who Has What?
3. The Wealth Escalator and the Debt Anchor
4. How the Deck is Stacked Against Mothers
5. Saving and Investing: Do men and women do it differently?
6. Marriage: What's mine is yours?
7. Public Solutions: Why equal pay and family-friendly policies aren't enough and what should be done instead
Appendix Data and Methods

Advance acclaim for Shortchanged

“How many of the richest Americans are women?  Given that women are just as likely as men to be born into wealth, and given that women now earn 78 cents on the dollar, you might imagine that the wealthy are at long last a gender-integrated crowd.  But you’d be wrong.  In a masterful scientific whodunit, Shortchanged explains why the wealth gap remains so extreme, even while women have made substantial gains in the labor market.  If you’re a fan of smart muckraking, of the passionate expose coupled to the very best science, Shortchanged is for you.”

—David B. Grusky, Professor of Sociology and Director of the Center for the Study of Poverty and Inequality, Stanford University

"Shortchanged brings gender into the wealth conversation. This insightful analysis pushes our thinking about gender equality beyond equal pay and workplace issues to structures and policies creating a profound gender wealth gap. Any understanding of opportunities and inequality in the United States, thanks to Mariko Chang, now must include the relationship between wealth and gender."

—Thomas M. Shapiro, Director, Institute on Assets and Social Policy and Pokross Professor of Law and Social Policy, Brandeis University

"Shortchanged is a very readable, enlightening, and provocative study on an extremely important issue-–the gender wealth gap. Whereas the vast majority of studies on gender differences focus on labor earnings, income, or jobs, this is one of the first works to broaden the topic to include family wealth. Chang makes clear the gender wealth gap is a more meaningful measure of inequality that far exceeds these other dimensions."

—Edward Wolff, Professor of Economics, New York University

“A huge gap in the burgeoning literature on wealth and inequality has been the role of gender. Thank heavens for Mariko Chang's Shortchanged which fills in this gap and then some. By deftly combining qualitative and quantitative analysis of why and how women suffer from a staggering asset gap, this fine book throws down a gauntlet for gender scholars to reassess their prevailing models of household inequality.”

—Dalton Conley, Dean for the Social Sciences and University Professor, New York University



© 2010 Mariko Chang. All rights reserved.