Foon Rhee

The Numbers Crunch: What’s so wrong about playing the ‘woman’s card’?

Supporters cheer Hillary Clinton during a Women for Hillary event in New York in April.
Supporters cheer Hillary Clinton during a Women for Hillary event in New York in April. Associated Press

A new thing in the rollicking presidential race is Donald Trump’s ridiculous slam that Hillary Clinton is playing the “woman’s card.”

As if someone trying to become America’s first female president could somehow avoid voters noticing she’s a woman.

Clinton is cashing in on the attack, responding that “if fighting for women’s health care and paid family leave and equal pay is playing the woman’s card, then deal me in!” Her campaign is offering a fundraising gimmick – an official Hillary for America Woman Card.

So if a woman’s card actually existed, where’s the best place in California to use it?

There’s now a much more comprehensive tool to figure that out, a joint production of the California Budget & Policy Center and the Women’s Foundation of California. The interactive online index is a wide-ranging look at women’s well-being in all 58 counties. It brings together data on more than two dozen indicators centered on health, personal safety, employment and earnings, economic security and political power.

On women’s overall well-being, wealthy counties in and around San Francisco come out looking good, including top-ranking Marin. But so do some counties toward Lake Tahoe, namely Placer (third) and El Dorado (fifth).

As with so many rankings, Sacramento County is fair to middling, ranking 25th. No surprise, but women are worse off in poorer, inland counties, including Kern, Merced and Yuba.

The index drew a little attention when it was released last month, but it deserves more. It shows the steep challenges facing many women in California, the budget center and women’s foundation say. For instance, single mothers are paying far too much of their income on rent, especially in high-cost coastal counties. Women in rural, inland counties are more likely to say they’re in fair or poor health. And Hispanic and black women earn less than white and Asian women, and are more likely to be in poverty.

Besides curious Californians, the index ought to be well-read by state legislators.

After winning the nation’s strongest equal pay law last year, the Legislative Women’s Caucus is pushing another ambitious agenda this year that echoes some of Clinton’s campaign promises.

It includes spending $800 million more a year for child care and early education, which the caucus hopes will be in Gov. Jerry Brown’s revised budget proposal in May. The agenda also includes guaranteeing three months of paid parental leave to employees in companies with 10 workers or more and giving women more bargaining power on salaries.

So far, these measures haven’t made it very far. They must pass the house where they were introduced by June to stay alive this session.

These proposals would surely improve the lives of many Californians – whether they’re playing the woman’s card or not.

By the numbers

The overall well-being index for women, on a scale of 1-100, for selected counties:

  • 1. Marin, 77.3
  • 3. Placer, 70.6
  • 4. El Dorado, 65.2
  • 8. San Francisco, 64.2
  • 11. Yolo, 62.4
  • 20. San Diego, 57.1
  • 25. Sacramento, 55.7
  • 31. Los Angeles, 49.7
  • 37. San Joaquin, 47.8
  • 45. Fresno, 42.7
  • 47. Stanislaus, 42.5
  • 55. Merced, 37.4
  • 56. Yuba, 35.4

Source: California Budget & Policy Center and Women’s Foundation of California

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