American Express Stock – 2021’s Best states for women: Blue states more women-friendly than red states, study finds
Women fare better in blue states over red states, a new study that looked at the best and worst states for women finds.
According to WalletHub’s new study “2021’s Best & Worst States for Women,” Minnesota, Maine, and Vermont are the best states for women, respectively, while Mississippi is the worst state for women, followed by Alabama, and Arkansas at the bottom of the list.
To determine which states, plus Washington, D.C., are best for women, researchers used 26 “key indicators of living standards for women” to determine their rankings.
The 26 metrics used were divided into two categories; “women’s economic and social well-being,” and “women’s health care and safety.”
Some of those 26 metrics are:
- Median Earnings for Female Workers
- Share of Women Living in Poverty
- Share of Women-Owned Businesses
- Friendliness Toward Working Moms
- Quality of Women’s Hospitals
- Depression Rate for Women
- Prevalence of Rape Victimization Among Women
You can see the study’s full methodology below.
2021’S BEST STATES FOR WOMEN
- North Dakota
- Washington, D.C.
- South Dakota
- New Hampshire
- New York
- Rhode Island
- New Jersey
- North Carolina
- New Mexico
- West Virginia
- South Carolina
The average rank for blue states, according to how each state voted in the 2020 presidential election, is 16.57, while the average red state ranks 32.60 on the list.
The highest-ranked red state is North Dakota at #4, while the lowest-ranked blue state is Nevada at #44. The bottom of the list is dominated by southern states, with Virginia being the top-ranked southern state at #22.
WalletHub contacted several leading expert on women’s issues, asking each of them the same questions, which are listed below with answers from the various experts.
#1 – What factors, financial or otherwise, should women consider when choosing a city to live in?
Deborah M. KolbPh.D. – Professor Emerita, and Distinguished Scholar, Center for Gender in Organizations, Simmons College School of Management – Simmons University said:
Of course, the most important issue is about opportunity—different states have hubs that focus on different fields—Massachusetts and California, e.g., technology. New York, Finance; Massachusetts, education.”
Elaine McCrate, associate professor, Department of Economics and Women’s and Gender Studies – University of Vermont said:
If she has children or is considering having children, she should consider whether the state has a paid and job-guaranteed parental leave program for at least a couple of months. She should consider the level of development of the childcare system. Children have a huge effect on women’s ability to hold good jobs, and it is harder when there is little public support. If through the responsibility of supporting children she and her family are low-income, they should also consider refundable state-level earned income tax credits which augment low wages. If she is low-income, she should also consider the level of any state-specific minimum wage. Minimum wages not only force up sub-minimum-wages; they also tend to raise wages slightly above the minimum.”
Sara Laschever, faculty member, Carnegie Mellon Leadership and Negotiation Academy for Women; Author: ‘Women Don’t Ask’ said:
Since women continue to bear most of the responsibility for raising our future citizens, states that provide the most support for children and families should rank high on your list. Those services include:
- Robust healthcare access, including the expansion of Medicaid coverage for the poor. In my state, Massachusetts, close to 99% of children has insurance coverage, as does a huge majority of the adult population.
- Well-regulated and widely available early childhood education programs.
- Good public schools.
- Low maternal mortality rates.
- Low infant mortality rates.
- Low child mortality rates.
- Reasonable gun laws and low overall firearm death rates, since firearms are the second largest killer of American children and suicide rates among teens have soared recently.
- Great doctors and hospitals.
Since women also make up the vast majority of people providing unpaid care for aging relatives, women should also consider whether a state has widely available, well-regulated, and routinely inspected eldercare support systems and facilities.
#2 – What should a state-level public-policy agenda for women include?
Andrea Johnson – Director of State Policy, Workplace Justice & Cross-Cutting Initiatives and Jenalyn Sotto – Senior Manager for Strategy & Policy – National Women’s Law Center said:
Women and gender marginalized people lead multi-issue lives—and the COVID-19 pandemic has made that all too apparent. During the 2020 election, we saw a historic uptick in women, Black, Indigenous, and other people of color (BIPOC), and LGBTQ people winning seats at every level from city councils to Congress. These victories happened because these candidates championed an intersectional, gender justice-forward agenda of policy change. In fact, analysis by the National Women’s Law Center and Pew show that legislatures with more women, BIPOC, and LGBTQ elected officials are introducing and enacting more legislation than state legislatures with significantly less diverse leaders. This is huge. It showcases that gender and racially diverse leadership is linked to a greater ability to prioritize and do the work. It also means that key issues for women, girls, and gender diverse people are not easily reduced and dismissed. In other words, it means being able to embed “women’s issues” more deeply into robust equity-forward efforts like passing economic stimulus and recovery bills that address the gendered impact of COVID job loss, expanding protections against discrimination and harassment in schools and the workplace, and ensuring access to quality health care during a global pandemic, including improving access to pregnancy care and abortion. The pandemic and forced quarantine have also demanded we reckon with the deep flaws in our national child care system, both the long-term lack of investment as well as the pervasive anti-mom bias in workplaces and classrooms. And as students deal with the trauma of the pandemic, we must work to reverse the trend of investing in school police officers and the criminalization of Black and brown students and, instead, invest in counselors to help students with their mental and emotional health.”
Equal pay act—Massachusetts has one that ensures that women have access to good data. Medical and family leave; right to an abortion; easily accessible medical care.”
Paid and job-guaranteed parental leave when children are extremely young or newly adopted; early childcare systems after parental leave ends, preferably run through the education system rather than the social welfare system; state-level minimum wages that are substantially above the federal minimum wage. Robust policies against harassment (including but not limited to sexual harassment). Robust policies related to racial equality, and the rights of immigrants.”
Laschever issued the following bullet points:
- “Zoning laws that promote economic diversity in the housing market.
- A public commitment backed up by resources (funding, personnel), to closing the wage gap. Here is an example, and again from Massachusetts, and Insurance regulations that support women’s health needs, such as mandated coverage for fertility services.
- Laws that require companies to make reasonable accommodations for pregnant employees and nursing mothers.
- No tax on period products.
- High ratings for women’s health and safety.
- Strong violence against women and anti-stalking legislation.
- Predictive scheduling legislation.
- Strong, consistently enforced workplace safety regulations.
- Strong equal pay legislation, especially including prohibitions against asking job applicants about their previous salaries, which can disadvantage women since employers typically calculate their salary offers as a percentage increase over what the applicant was earning at their previous jobs. Since women are routinely paid less than men, this exacerbates that disparity and makes it much harder for women to negotiate for salaries that reflect their true value in the marketplace.
- Robust sexual harassment legislation as well as a documented history of enforcement.
- Strong legal protections for disabled citizens, since women with disabilities, have been shown to suffer from high levels of poverty and social exclusion.”
#3 -Are states converging or diverging in issues of importance to women including equal pay, reproductive rights, etc.?
Johnson & Sotto said:
Coming out of the last election, we are seeing several state and national partners heeding the example set by Stacey Abrams—to stay in the states and work together in the “off years” to maintain and deepen voter and community engagement. This is critically important to offset the efforts by conservatives to undermine progressive gains and attack our communities through insidious legislation like increasingly restrictive voter suppression bills, bills attacking transgender students, and hundreds of anti-abortion bills. Because of this community organizing, we are also seeing some positive legislative trends in the states. More and more states, from Connecticut to Indiana to South Carolina, are working on legislation this session that would require employers to be more transparent with job applicants about the salary range for positions. Legislators are recognizing that the wage gap will likely widen unless we take urgent action on such equal pay measures because gender and racial wage gaps have left women with a little financial cushion to weather this crisis. As a result, as women who have lost their jobs or have been forced to quit to care for children or family members seek to reenter the workforce, they will likely be forced to accept a lower-paying job because they lack the savings to hold out for a higher paying one. As COVID-19 has increased workers’ vulnerability to workplace harassment, we are witnessing a trend among state legislators to introduce legislation that clarifies in their state what conduct constitutes workplace harassment and rejects outdated federal law interpretations that have long minimized the harmful impact of harassment, especially for women of color. This legislation is popping up in states from Virginia to New Jersey to Oregon and is extremely important now as workers are more desperate to keep a paycheck and less willing to report workplace discrimination, including harassment.”
Clearly diverging especially regarding reproductive rights. Now it is important that women who have access to good jobs also have more choices re abortion—they can go to other states. Women at the lower end of the economic spectrum do not.”
Diverging, I think — only four states have paid parental leave. The last time I checked about 25 states had state-level minimum wages that were above the federal rate.”
Clearly diverging, especially around reproductive rights.”
#4 – What strategies have proven effective in encouraging more women to run for elected office?
Having other women run for public office makes women see it is possible. Also foundations, in Massachusetts we have the Barbara Lee Family Foundation that provides support for women running for public office.”
Specific training programs — for example, Emerge Vermont.”
Johnson & Sotto said:
The COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare the deep gaps in our economic and social infrastructure that have resulted from decades of underinvestment and policy choices that failed to center the needs of cis and transgender women, especially Black, Latina, Native American, Asian American, and Pacific Islander, and other women of color. These communities are bearing the brunt of the COVID-19 pandemic as essential workers risking their lives for minimum wage, as those caregivers forced to navigate how to bring home a paycheck and care for their families, as those losing jobs at the highest rates, and getting pushed out of the labor force altogether.
“To recover and rebuild from the pandemic and economic crisis, states must center the needs of women, especially women of color—at work, at school, at home, and in their communities. The National Women’s Law Center recently released our State Playbook for Gender Justice that highlights an agenda for a “COVID-19 Recovery That Works For All of Us.” This agenda includes:
“Increasing families’ access to affordable, high-quality child care and early education; expanding access to comprehensive health coverage, including reproductive health care; expanding and strengthening state unemployment insurance programs; guaranteeing paid family and medical leave and paid sick days; raising the minimum wage, including for tipped workers; protecting workers’ safety and health, especially about controlling, preventing, and mitigating the spread of COVID-19; enacting eviction moratoriums and providing rental and mortgage assistance; investing in school counselors, not criminalization; and making the tax code help working families by establishing or strengthening state-level tax credits.”
Paid family leave help to organize childcare and schooling, tax credits for companies who rehire women, send money to parents.”
Teachers at elementary school children should have early access to the vaccine so that they can get back in the classroom and the children’s parents, especially their moms, can get back to work.”
Laschever provided the following bullet points, and said:
- Immediately prioritize vaccinating teachers at all levels, from early childhood to K-12 and college-level educators.
- Support infrastructure investment to provide all communities with robust Broadband access.
- Provide grants for schools to invest in technology (tablets, laptops) to loan to families that cannot afford them on their own.
- Increase the minimum wage so that single mothers working in low-paying, frontline roles can better support their families (and may not need to work multiple jobs to do so).
I am sure there is a lot more. I imagine that states with more diverse (as opposed to racially segregated) workforces also benefit women in important ways. Besides, much of what would help needs to happen at the federal level.”
To determine its rankings, WalletHub said it:
Compared the 50 states and the District of Columbia across two key dimensions, “Women’s Economic & Social Well-Being” and “Women’s Health & Safety.” We examined those dimensions using 26 relevant metrics, which are listed below with their corresponding weights. Each metric was graded on a 100-point scale, with a score of 100 representing the most favorable conditions for women. We then determined each state and the District’s weighted average across all metrics to calculate its overall score and used the resulting scores to rank-order the states.:
Women’s Economic & Social Well-Being – Total Points: 60
- Median Earnings for Female Workers: Full Weight (~4.62 Points) Note: This metric was adjusted for the cost of living.
- Unemployment Rate for Women: Full Weight (~4.62 Points)
- Job Security for Women: Full Weight (~4.62 Points) Note: (Number of Female Employees in 2020 – Number of Female Employees in 2019) / Number of Female Employees in 2019.
- Share of Women Living in Poverty: Full Weight (~4.62 Points)
- Unaffordability of Doctor’s Visit: Full Weight (~4.62 Points) Note: This metric measures the percentage of women who could not afford to see a doctor in the past year due to costs.
- Share of Women-Owned Businesses: Full Weight (~4.62 Points)
- “Economic Clout” of Women-Owned Firms Rank: Full Weight (~4.62 Points) Note: Combined economic clout rank is an averaging of the individual rankings of the 1) number, 2) revenue and 3) employment growth of women-owned firms between 2007 and 2018.
- High School Graduation Rate for Women: Full Weight (~4.62 Points)
- Friendliness Toward Working Moms: Double Weight (~9.23 Points) Note: This metric is based on WalletHub’s “Best & Worst States for Working Moms” ranking.
- Friendliness Toward Women’s Equality: Double Weight (~9.23 Points) Note: This metric is based on WalletHub’s “Best & Worst States for Women’s Equality” ranking.
- Share of Women Who Voted in the 2016 Presidential Election: Full Weight (~4.62 Points) Note: This metric was calculated as follows: Number of Women Who Voted in 2016 Presidential Election / Total Female U.S. Citizen Population Aged 18 Years or Older in State.
Women’s Health Care & Safety – Total Points: 40
- COVID-19 Positive Testing Rate in the Past Week: Triple Weight (~6.00 Points)
- COVID-19 Death Rate During the Past Week: Triple Weight (~6.00 Points)
- Quality of Women’s Hospitals: Full Weight (~2.00 Points) Note: This metric is based on U.S. News & World Report’s Best Hospitals for Gynecology ranking.
- Share of Women Ages 18-44 Who Reported Having One or More People They Think of as Their Personal Doctor or Health Care Provider: Full Weight (~2.00 Points) Note: Primary care providers are specialized in establishing a long-lasting relationship with their patients, and are their medical point of contact. They diagnose, treat and prevent a wide variety of conditions in a way that is tailored to each individual patient. Having a dedicated health care provider, or a provider considered to be one’s personal doctor, is associated with elements of successful health care, such as; Lower health care costs, greater use of preventive services, such as flu shots or mammograms, fewer emergency department visits for non-urgent or avoidable problems, increased patient satisfaction, improvements in chronic care management for chronic conditions such as hypertension and high cholesterol
- Female Uninsured Rate: Full Weight (~2.00 Points) Note: This metric accounts for females ages 16 and older.
- Share of Women with Good or Better Health: Full Weight (~2.00 Points) Note: This metric is based on data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Behavioral Risk Factors Surveillance System (CDC – BRFSS).
- Women’s Preventive Health Care: Full Weight (~2.00 Points) Note: This metric measures the share of women who were up-to-date on cervical and breast-cancer screenings.
- Share of Physically Active Women: Full Weight (~2.00 Points)
- Share of Women Who Are Obese: Full Weight (~2.00 Points)
- Baby-Friendliness: Double Weight (~4.00 Points) Note: This metric is based on WalletHub’s “Best & Worst States to Have a Baby” ranking.
- Depression Rate for Women: Full Weight (~2.00 Points)
- Suicide Rate for Women: Full Weight (~2.00 Points)
- Women’s Life Expectancy at Birth: Full Weight (~2.00 Points)
- Female Homicide Rate: Full Weight (~2.00 Points) Note: This metric measures the number of women murdered by men (per 100,000 female residents) and accounts for all ages.
- Prevalence of Rape Victimization Among Women: Full Weight (~2.00 Points) Note: This metric measures instances of rape. According to the U.S Bureau of Justice Statistics, 91 percent of rape victims are female and 9 percent are male.
Sources: Data used to create this ranking were collected from the U.S. Census Bureau, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Education Statistics, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Violence Policy Center, Council for Community and Economic Research, American Express OPEN, U.S. News & World Report, United Health Foundation, United States Mortality DataBase, The COVID Tracking Project and WalletHub research.
KUTV did not commission this study and therefore could not independently verify the results.