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Love Where You Live: The Best and Worst States for Women

A new study compares states on their female friendliness based on 25 key indicators. How does your state rate?

Even though we’ve supposedly been making progress for decades, there’s still a distressing problem with how women are faring in this country. For instance, women represent nearly two-thirds of all minimum-wage workers in the nation. Political representation also suffers, as women make up 51 percent of the U.S. population but only 24 percent of the Senate and 27.6 percent of the House of Representatives.

And it’s been widely reported that working women are experiencing the worst effects of the COVID-19 recession when it comes to burnout and are leaving the workforce at a higher rate than men.

There are simply some parts of the country–we’re looking at you, Deep South–where women are getting even the shorter end of the stick than in other areas.

But to a great extent, geography is destiny. There are simply some parts of the country–we’re looking at you, Deep South–where women are getting even the shorter end of the stick than in other areas.

In order to determine how women are faring and where they can find the best opportunities relative to where they live, WalletHub compared the 50 states and the District of Columbia across 25 key indicators of living standards for women. Our data set ranges from median earnings for female workers to women’s preventive health care to the female homicide rate.

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The Best

In general, the top places for women are blue states. But we can’t say that definitively because look at number 8–Iowa. And notice that big fat blue state California is not on this list. The states below really shine in the following categories: median earnings, unemployment rate for women, income levels, women-owned businesses, and rates of women who vote in elections.

“Representation is very important,” says Monica Taylor, a professor at Montclair State University in New Jersey. “So women are best off choosing to live in states where there are a lot of women legislators as they tend to be committed to women’s issues and intersectional diversity issues in general.”

Taylor says that many women politicians are continually under scrutiny, and if they are women of color or LGBTQ, the critique often intensifies. “This is just the reality of where we are in politics and although we have made so much progress,” she says, “the press continually portrays women in stereotypical ways.”

Julie Novkov, a political science professor at the State University of New York at Albany, says that “because women tend disproportionately to be caregivers, the environment for caregiving often matters.” She adds, “Women also do better in policy environments that recognize that other forms of discrimination can combine with gender discrimination in powerful and damaging ways, and therefore promote policies that acknowledge multiple burdens.”

She predicts that “companies that value women’s contributions and are willing to make some accommodations for temporary crises will reap the benefits in the long run by retaining highly able and committed employees.”

Here are the ten states where you’re most likely to find policies and companies that favor women.

1. Massachusetts

2. Minnesota

3. New York

4. Hawaii

5. District of Columbia

6. Vermont

7. Maryland

8. Iowa

9. Washington

10. Rhode Island

The Worst

Ugh. The states below rank near the bottom in areas such as rates of women with health insurance, high school graduation rates, life expectancy, and female homicidal rates.

One of the key indicators of how women are treated in a state is maternal mortality rates, says Cynthia Soohoo, a professor at City University of New York School of Law. “Women’s ability to access quality health care varies widely by state,” she says. “We can see this most drastically in vast differences in state maternal mortality rates, with some states having twice the maternal mortality rate of other states.” (The U.S. has the highest maternal mortality rate among wealthy nations, and maternal mortality disproportionately impacts Black women).

“States with higher maternal mortality rates also tend to have the most restrictive laws around abortion,” she continues, “perhaps reflecting that women are unable to access necessary abortions and that states with restrictive abortion laws fail to prioritize and allocate resources to support health care and safe and healthy pregnancies and births.” She adds, “States also vary in the workplace protections they provide around pregnancy, breastfeeding, and caregiving.”

42. Alaska

43. Georgia

44. Texas

45. Idaho

46. Mississippi

47. Louisiana

48. South Carolina

49. Arkansas

50. Alabama

51. Oklahoma

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By NextTribe Editors


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