Family Economic Security
Wider Opportunities for Women’s Family Economic Security Project (FES) works with partners and coalitions across the country to promote policies and programs that help low-income families move toward economic security. The FES Project also partners with national organizations and coalitions to advance policies that support low-income families at the federal level. WOW furthers our and our partners’ economic security agendas through four areas of work:
- Expanding access to and education and training for good jobs
- Improving the quality of low-wage jobs
- Protecting and improving public support programs and social insurance
- Advancing the economic security framework and a progressive economic narrative.
The Basic Economic Security Tables™ Index (BEST)
For more than 15 years, WOW’s FES program has provided tools and resources to national, state and local policy advocates, workforce and economic development practitioners, social service providers, grantmakers, policy makers and opinion leaders who help low- and moderate-income workers achieve long-term economic security.
WOW developed the Self-Sufficiency Standard in the mid-1990s and has partnered with thousands of organizations in 40 states to promote financial independence. In 2009, WOW recognized the need for a contemporary measure that embodies an expanded definition of well-being and encourages basic savings, so we created the Basic Economic Security Tables™ (BEST) Index. The BEST Index measures the incomes and assets American workers and families require to achieve economic security over a lifetime and across generations. The BEST Index highlights the variance in living costs across the country and among a wide variety of family types and–unlike the federal poverty level–provides an accurate picture of families’ income needs and financial challenges. WOW’s BEST-related demographic research has found that nearly half of America’s families lack incomes that provide basic economic security.
The BEST Index, produced in partnership with the Center for Social Development at Washington University-St. Louis, uses public data sources to measure the local costs of families’ basic expenses (housing, utilities, food, childcare, transportation, health care, household goods, emergency and retirement savings). The BEST Index points to the importance of career paths that provide higher wages, employment-based benefits and workplace flexibility, and to the importance of savings and assets. The BEST undergirds WOW’s advocacy on improving job quality and public support program funding.
WOW’s most recent BEST Index:
Building Bridges to Economic Security
The Building Bridges Campaign was a two-year initiative dedicated to finding common language to unite organizations and bridge the generations by creating a consensus-based messaging framework of building economic security across the lifespan. The FES Project continues to partner with the WOW Elder Economic Security Initiative™ to promote the lessons learned from Building Bridges polling and a common effective messaging framework.
Job Quality Advocacy
Good jobs provide adequate incomes, benefits and workplace flexibility. Our economy has been witnessing a significant increase in low-wage work, continuing wage stagnation and an increased absence of flexible workplace policies and employment-based benefits. These changes have left more and more families with incomes that cannot cover the growing costs of health care, childcare, housing and education. In fact, WOW research finds that nearly half of the American population lack economic insecurity incomes. WOW advocates for improvements in job quality and fights against the corporate “race to the bottom” approach to employment and job quality. WOW is an active member of local and national campaigns to require all employers to offer workers paid sick days, increase the minimum wage, and expand and strengthen the Family Medical Leave Act.
When jobs do not pay enough or are not available, or people are unable to work, government support programs play an important role in helping families avoid poverty. Unfortunately, eligibility rules and benefit amounts often leave families far from what they require to get by, and still farther from any measure of security. These programs and their funding are often under attack. WOW’s FES project provides information on the impact and importance of support programs and their funding to a wide variety of audiences.
- The Basic Economic Security Tables (2010): The inaugural report for the BEST Initiative reviews the measure’s methodology, national data for 420 family types and the data’s implications for job quality.
- Coming Up Short: Wages, Public Assistance and Economic Security Across America models the impact and significance of income support programs for different family types in eight states as compared to WOW’s BEST Index data.
- Living Below the Line Report: Economic Insecurity and America’s Families (Fall 2014): WOW measures rates of economic insecurity as defined by the BEST Index by gender, race, educational attainment, and occupation. The report finds that nearly half of all Americans lack economic security incomes.
- Cross-Generational Perspectives on Economic Security: In collaboration with Lake Research Partners, WOW completed a communications research survey of the public’s feelings about their own economic security and the language they use to describe their financial concerns. The result advances best messaging practices.