In Arizona, women are more likely than men to be single parents.
Census data shows women also make up more than half of the unemployed population, and are more likely than men to have low-paying jobs.
The authors of a new study say women depend on state-run programs to help get them out of poverty, and funding for those programs has been drastically cut, some programs have been totally eliminated.
The Grand Canyon Institute and the Women’s Foundation of Southern Arizona released a study Wednesday showing the state eliminated, or reduced, funding to 17 programs that supported women or helped them work toward financial self-sufficiency.
“This affects approximately 1 million women across the state and depending on how you count your poverty level, it could be a much larger number, because it’s 1 million women but they have families," said George Cunningham, chairman of the Grand Canyon Institute.
Among the 17 programs are those that help someone enter the workforce or stay on the job, he said.
”Some of the areas where the cuts have occurred (include) child care subsidies, those were completely almost eliminated, there was $2 million for child care subsidies,." he said. "In addition to that, there were certain programs that provided health care for low- and moderate-income women that were eliminated...there was cut in early childhood education funding.”
The decision affects everyone, said Laura Penny, the executive director of the Women’s Foundation of Southern Arizona.
“I think we haven't been really thoughtful about our policies, and this is really economic development 101," she said. "I don’t think we should look at it as benefits, but we should look at it as an investment.”
Improving Arizona’s workforce means educating women to do the jobs employers need, Penny said. The report shows funding was eliminated for adult education programs, and community colleges lost more than 50 percent of state funding during the recession.
“Those types of programs actually empower women to become self sufficient, and the state has gone in an opposite direction than it should have in order to achieve self-sufficiency for women," he said.
And once a woman finds a job, the financial challenge continues.
“Who’s going to look after the children at that point? Because folks don’t typically come off of unemployment and move into the executive suite making six figures a year," Penny said.
The numbers in this new report are similar to research the Women’s Foundation of Southern Arizona did a few years ago, Penney said.
"For a single-parent family with a school-age child and a preschooler, it can be over $1,000 a month just for child care," she said. "That's comparable to tuition at the UA. We have people paying more for child care than they do for rent, having children has a huge impact to peoples’ self-sufficiency.”
The Grand Canyon Institute did the research so it could prove to lawmakers what impact these investments in social programs have on the people who use them, Cunningham said.
"We believe that the study will be persuasive in convincing many legislators that restoring investments that were there in the past...with regard to child care and early childhood education and health care and education, generally, that if those investments are made there will be a return on investment to the state," he said.
State lawmakers have not yet begun debating the budget for next year, but Gov. Jan Brewer’s budget proposal includes increased funding for some of the departments that run these services.