The Trump administration has been the target of full-throated resistance from women on the left, who say it could be one of the most damaging to women in recent memory.
We tested these accusations by using an analysis known as gender-based budgeting, and found that the deepest cuts in President Trump’s budget would be in the programs that spend more on women than on men.
A budget is, of course, a wish list and a statement of priorities, and Congress has already signaled its opposition to parts of Mr. Trump’s plan. In particular, the 10-year totals we examined are their own special form of fiction. But we can look at which types of programs would be hit harder than others.
President Trump’s first budget proposes cuts that disproportionately affect women, according to our examination of 12 safety net and entitlement programs. Proposed cuts in Medicaid, housing assistance and low-income energy assistance would hit women particularly hard.
That’s because in the United States, women tend to benefit from social safety net spending more than men, according to census data. The budget calls for cutting Medicaid, where women receive 69 percent of total spending, by more than $800 billion over 10 years.
The budget also proposes cuts to SNAP benefits (also known as food stamps), cash welfare and energy assistance, all programs where more than 60 percent of funds are spent on women.
Programs that tend to benefit women
There are some programs where men receive more government spending. They receive substantially more in federal government retirement, military retirement and unemployment insurance. Over all, cuts to these programs over the long term were smaller. The programs fall under mandatory spending, meaning that their funds don’t need to be renewed every year by Congress. Instead, cuts would be made through the structure of the program itself. This is also true for Medicaid, Medicare and SNAP.
Programs that tend to benefit men
Social Security, where spending is split nearly 50-50, is virtually unchanged.
In addition to the large programs above, we looked at a list of smaller federal programs that women’s advocates have identified as particularly critical for women.
Mr. Trump’s budget proposal for 2018 left many of the existing programs unchanged. The biggest cut in percentage terms was for the Women’s Bureau, a small office dedicated to promoting working women. A new program would provide six weeks of paid leave to new parents, including fathers.
Programs that address women’s issues directly
Women’s advocates argue that to understand the potential impact of the budget on women’s health, it’s not enough to examine funding levels. Rules can change, too. For example, the new budget proposes a ban on Health and Human Services funding for “entities that provide abortions, including Planned Parenthood.” This ban would include funds from Title X, which provides money for family planning clinics, and Medicaid reimbursement for other services. So even if Title X funding remained the same, those who can benefit from it would change.
The ideas behind gender-based budgeting
Gender-based budgeting has been used over the years in 80 countries (but not widely in the United States), according to Janet G. Stotsky, a former adviser at the International Monetary Fund’s Office of Budget and Planning.
Gender-based analysis has demonstrated, for example, that women in Britain bore the brunt of its austerity programs and prodded San Francisco to install more street lights for women’s safety.
Austria has included gender-based budgeting as part of its constitution. This year, Canada for the first time issued a gender statement as part of its budget, identifying more than 60 measures that affected men and women differently and allocating new spending for areas like child care. In Britain, the independent Women’s Budget Group issues a yearly budget scorecard. In Rwanda and Uganda, budgets improved sanitary facilities for high schools because a lack of running water in bathrooms was one factor keeping adolescent girls out of school; in Mexico City, creating women-only transportation helped women get to work safely and kept them employed, Ms. Stotsky said.
Without detailed data on who benefits from different programs in the United States, our analysis leaves many questions unanswered.
It ignores taxes. The United States allows people to file their taxes jointly, making it difficult to parse how men and women fare differently under the tax code. (In other countries, for example Britain, people file independentlyregardless of marital status.)
It’s also unclear how to distribute benefits solely by gender. For example, the Trump budget proposes $200 billion in infrastructure spending. While good roads and bridges benefit everyone, it’s likely that, in a male-dominated industry like construction, men will be the main beneficiaries of new jobs. But their families would benefit, too. Additionally, it’s unclear what the gender effects are for many of the grants the federal government provides to the states.
But discussion over budget items like infrastructure and health are often framed in ways that break along gender. Ms. Stotsky says that spending that commonly benefits men, like infrastructure, is often described as an investment, while spending that benefits women, like SNAP and housing assistance, tends to be interpreted as costs. And neither is necessarily true. Big infrastructure projects can easily be spent on bridges to nowhere, just as large safety-net programs like food stamps can produce significant societal returns.