Thursday, October 3, 2013

What about the non-essential women? A different look at the government shut down:

My husband is a “non-essential” member of the federal civilian workforce. By definition he is now indefinitely un-employed. This was after we survived the sequestration furlough days of the summer.  We like so many families are living the reality of the government shutdown. I look at him and I wonder, like I did 17 years ago, how do you pick it back up and not be angry. But he’s got one of those wonderful dispositions so I’m sure he’ll be fine.

Then I listen to the media and I did some searching to get a sense of how others are talking about the shutdown. I read a number of commentaries on the impact of the shut down (I feel as though they should be haunted-house like music playing every time I type the word “shut down”). I’ve seen the “9 ways” the government shut down hurts your life and other such lists. While they were informative, I was left wondering: what about the federal civilian workers? How will they be impacted? Particularly, I was curious about Black women civilian workers. So I set out to find data on who makes up the federal civilian workforce.

Here’s a little of what I learned:

 Another report issued by The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, although older (2005), stated,

  • "Hispanics, Women, Blacks, American Indian/Alaskan Natives and People with Disabilities Remain Below the Government-Wide Average Pay Grade." 

Grades 1-8, relatively, are not the highest paying grades. Couple that with the fact that some of these women might be earning below the government-wide average pay grade and we have to ask: What about these “non-essential” Black female government workers?

What about the lived realities of these women? What about the lived realities of those Black female federal employees who are not salaried? How are they managing the “shut down”?

There is so little out there that it’s next to impossible to paint a picture on how these women incorporate and respond to the shut down (and prior furlough).

Living on the Edge

Amadi, on twitter, wrote 

Family tally: 5 furloughed, 1 pending, 3 working without pay.

Lots of Black families are reliant on government employment.

Yes, lots of Black families are reliant on government employment! Maybe the shutdown will not extend very far into the future so the questions I pose above might be mute. But what if it does extend for sometime?

Consider what we know about stress, economic uncertainty and their impact on Blacks.

Large literatures in sociology, economics, anthropology, and public health document that US blacks are more likely to experience stressful situations, such as material hardship, interpersonal discrimination, structural discrimination in housing and employment, and multiple caregiving roles  than whites.”


US blacks may be biologically older than whites of the same chronological age due to the cumulative impact of repeated exposure to and high-effort coping with stressors.” 
I suspect that a number of these women, in conjunction with dealing with life's daily stressors are now having to confront the stress associated with the shut down. So conceivably these women might experience stress-related accelerated biological aging and related illnesses?
It’s important, as we discuss the impact of the government shut down, to think of the first and second round impacts.
First round impacts might be more obvious as they include for example reduction in income and spending and the possibility of an increase in relative poverty. 
The second round impacts will more than likely occur after the media has moved on to other stories of the day (it’s not like they are reporting on Black women today). These may vary from household to household and might involve different types of coping strategies. One of which might involve women securing a second job. Which might increase stress, which gets us back to the aging faster issues and the various diseases that are exacerbated by stress.
This is why we need to ask the question: What about those “non-essential” Black government employees?

This is the third post of my 31-day blogging challenge. This is the first post under the general theme of “Critical Social Issues” You can tweet me at Dr_JZ using hash tag #31dbc to share your thoughts and share your stories of the lived experiences of those who are considered “non essential” government workers.


  1. Powerful observations! I can't help but wonder if GOP knew how the sequestration would affect black families. I hate to sound like a conspiracy theorist, but nowadays, nothing surprises me. thanks for the informative post, and I pray that this madness ends soon and very soon.

  2. Marva, you and I both. This shut down does have real consequences for "every" day folk