Currently there is no umbrella, cross-community non-profit organization in New York City focusing specifically on serving women immigrants.
- Women immigrants play an increasingly significant economic and integrative role in NYC’s society and economy
Women immigrants form over half of New York City’s three million immigrants, representing 20 percent of the total population. They are also the mothers of more than half of all children born every year in the city.
Immigrant female labor force participation stands at nearly 60 percent, and women immigrants are overrepresented in service occupations. In particular, it is estimated that women immigrants make up over two-thirds of domestic workers, a sector projected to continue growing as the US population ages. At the same time, business ownership among women immigrants is increasing, both in New York and in the United States.
Several research studies show that women immigrants are instrumental to strong families and communities. They embrace citizenship and are drivers of integration and naturalization in their families, for their children in particular, and in their communities.
- But women immigrants suffer from unequal access to opportunities, rights, and resources. As immigrants and women, they often face challenges that are common to all immigrants more acutely, and are burdened by additional vulnerabilities.
According to a recent study of the Migration Policy Institute (March 2015), nearly half of women immigrants in the US have limited English proficiency, and a third have not completed high school. They often lack familiarity and proficiency in using computers, the Internet, and other electronic resources and media, when these technologies could help open the door to greater opportunities for them. As a result, women immigrants remain underrepresented in managerial and professional occupations, resulting in lower earnings and higher poverty levels.
Women immigrants are heavily concentrated in the childbearing ages and have higher fertility than native-born women. As a result, the percentage of immigrant households comprised of families is much higher than that of the native-born, and foreign-born family households are significantly larger and more likely to be overcrowded. One-fifth of all immigrant households are female-headed families, with no spouse present. And even in households with both parents present, women immigrants often remain the sole caregivers, with obvious implications for their educational and professional advancement.
Women immigrants are particularly vulnerable to suffer abuse both at work and in their household. A study by Domestic Workers United (2006) found that 33 percent of domestic workers in New York City, the large majority of whom are women immigrants, had experienced some form of physical or verbal abuse, often because of their race or immigration status. Violence against women immigrants also often occurs in their own homes. The power and control dynamic of domestic violence is exacerbated when the woman’s immigration status is tied to that of a permanent resident or US citizen spouse, or when she is afraid to report the abuse for fear of deportation. According to the Mayor’s Office on Domestic Violence, young women immigrants are more likely than any other group of women to be killed by their abusers. Human trafficking, prostitution, and sexual assault are other forms of violent crimes endured by young women immigrants.
- Beyond the positive impact on individuals and families, investing in women immigrants will sustain and grow New York City’s local economies and communities, and help create a more equitable society.