Best and worst states for women
Best and worst states for women
Whether it's a student considering attending a new college, a professional planning to start a new career, or an entrepreneur looking for a place to launch a business, some states might be more attractive to women than others. For instance, some states have dramatically higher or lower median earnings or unemployment rates among women. Others have much higher or lower percentages of women who own businesses or live in poverty. In some states, more or fewer women are insured, are registered to vote, or graduate from high school.
Stacker developed a list of all 50 states and the District of Columbia according to how accommodating or unaccommodating women can expect each state to be. The states are ranked by a WalletHub index based on women's overall economic and social well-being and their overall health and safety as part of WalletHub's Best and Worst States for Women 2018 ranking. States are ranked on a 100-point scale, with a score of 100 representing the most favorable conditions for women.
WalletHub used a number of sources to create the index, including the U.S. Census Bureau, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Center for Educational Statistics, the FBI, the Violence Policy Center, and the Council for Community and Economic Research. Other 2018 WalletHub research and indexes are also included, such as "Best & Worst States for Working Moms," "Best & Worst States for Women's Equality," and "Best & Worst States to Have a Baby." It's important to note that the study was conducted before the November 2018 midterm elections, which could have influenced the political empowerment ranking.
Here's a look not only at data from the studies, but important moments or people from each state that had an impact on women's empowerment, progress, or advancement.
Total score: 36.27
Women's economic and social well-being: #51
Women's health and safety: #47
WalletHub named Louisiana the second-worst place for working moms and the #4 worst place to have a baby. Although Louisianans has elected three women as U.S. senators throughout its history, it only ratified the Nineteenth Amendment, which gave women the right to vote, in 1970. That's a full half-century after the state voted with the minority against women's suffrage in 1920.
Total score: 39.77
Women's economic and social well-being: #44
Women's health and safety: #51
In the early part of the 19th century, Arkansas was a leader in helping early American women gain a crucial right. Every state in the country except Louisiana followed prevailing common law that turned all of a woman's property over to her husband as soon as they were married. In 1835, while still a territory, Arkansas passed a first-in-the-nation law giving women the right to keep property in their own names.
Total score: 40.71
Women's economic and social well-being: #47
Women's health and safety: #48
WalletHub recently ranked Mississippi as the worst state to have a baby, and no state in America has a higher percentage of women living in poverty. The Women's Foundation of Mississippi is working to change all that. The only advocacy and grant-making organization in the state dedicated exclusively to supporting groups that serve Mississippi's women and girls, the foundation works to improve health, opportunity access, and family planning.
Total score: 41.06
Women's economic and social well-being: #49
Women's health and safety: #43
A different WalletHub study recently ranked Oklahoma as the #5 worst state to have a baby in the country. Whether or not that's true, Oklahoma embodies the spirit of the pioneer and homesteader women who walked and hacked their way through the wilderness alongside their husbands, forged paths, built homes, and paved the way to statehood, all while giving birth and raising children. The "Pioneer Women" statue in Ponca City honors that legacy.
Total score: 41.75
Women's economic and social well-being: #50
Women's health and safety: #42
Two recent WalletHub studies were unkind to Alabama, naming it the #2 worst state to have a baby and the #3 worst state for working moms. Alabama is also listed as a state with one of the lowest high school graduation rates for women. Some of the most revered and accomplished women in history, however, hail from the state. Rosa Parks, Angela Davis, Coretta Scott King, Helen Keller, and Harper Lee are all Alabamans.
#46. South Carolina
Total score: 42.08
Women's economic and social well-being: #46
Women's health and safety: #46
Recent WalletHub studies named South Carolina the #3 worst place to have a baby and the #5 worst place for working moms, but when it comes to women in education, the state has a long and proud tradition. Adult literacy pioneer Wil Lou Gray is from South Carolina, as are Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune and Eliza Briggs, the latter of whom was one of the first parents to challenge segregation in schools.
#45. West Virginia
Total score: 44.08
Women's economic and social well-being: #41
Women's health and safety: #49
If you ever visit the heart of Appalachia, be sure to check out the West Virginia Women's History Heritage Trail. The trail includes two dozen stops along the beautiful countryside that serve as homages to notable women the state's history. The International Mother's Day Shrine is there, as are the Mother Jones House, the Charleston Women's Improvement League, and Elizabeth Moore Hall.
Total score: 44.22
Women's economic and social well-being: #39
Women's health and safety: #50
No state in the country has a lower high school graduation rate for women than Nevada, and the state is ranked as the #4 worst for working moms, but the good news is WalletHub ranked Nevada the #4 best state in terms of women's rights. Nevada, of course, is home to Las Vegas, a longstanding boys' club—but plenty of Nevada women fought for their piece of the Sin City action, too. Bernice Jaeger was one of the first women in hotel management, Jeanne Hood operated the Four Queens Hotel & Casino, Toni Clark was instrumental in running the Desert Inn Hotel & Casino, Alice Boyer ran the Las Vegas Mesquite Club, Mitzi Briggs was the legendary majority owner of the Tropicana, and Judy Bayley became the first woman to control a major casino, the Hacienda.
Total score: 47
Women's economic and social well-being: #43
Women's health and safety: #39
Georgia is home to one of the most important women in history, Rebecca Latimer Felton. Felton was a tireless advocate for Progressive Era reforms, particularly women's rights. She is most famous, however, for being the first woman ever to serve in the U.S. Senate. She was appointed and served only a single day in office when the Senate was not in session.
Total score: 47.4
Women's economic and social well-being: #45
Women's health and safety: #36
WalletHub ranks Texas as the #3 worst state for women's equality, and the Lonestar State also has the highest rate of uninsured women in the country. Many Texas women have changed the course of history, including the state's first woman governor, Miriam "Ma" Ferguson, and Bessie Coleman, who became the first black woman aviator. Few, however, crashed through more glass ceilings and racial barriers than Barbara Jordan, who became the first African-American elected after Reconstruction to serve in the state Senate. She later became the first black woman ever to represent Texas in the U.S. House of Representatives and the first African-American woman ever to be buried in the Texas State Cemetery.
Total score: 47.92
Women's economic and social well-being: #48
Women's health and safety: #27
According to WalletHub, Idaho is the worst state for working moms and the #2 worst state in terms of women's equality. Like many Western states, however, Idaho has a long and proud history of women's rights and suffrage that was far ahead of its time. Idaho granted women the right to vote in 1896, nearly a quarter century before the 19th Amendment, making it one of just four states to grant suffrage in the 19th century.
#40. New Mexico
Total score: 48.62
Women's economic and social well-being: #37
Women's health and safety: #40
Today, New Mexico has the single highest unemployment rate for women in the country, the second-highest percentage of women living in poverty, and one of the lowest high school graduation rates for women in America. It also, however, has a claim to what might be the most diverse and oldest women's rights lineages in the country. In 2014 during Women's History Month, New Mexico celebrated its rich heritage, dating back to the colonial era in the 1500s, of black, Hispanic, European-descended, and Native American women—not to mention every conceivable combination in between—who fought for inclusion, justice, and progress throughout the centuries.
Total score: 48.8
Women's economic and social well-being: #34
Women's health and safety: #44
According to WalletHub, no state in the country has a higher percentage of women-owned businesses than Alaska. Although she's an Idaho native, Sarah Palin became a woman of firsts in Alaska. The mayor of Wasilla, Palin went on to become the first woman governor of Alaska. In 2008, she accepted the nomination to serve as John McCain's running mate on the Republican presidential ticket. She was the first Alaskan to be included on the national ticket of a major political party, and the first Republican woman selected to run as vice president.
Total score: 49.26
Women's economic and social well-being: #29
Women's health and safety: #45
Women athletes helped put Tennessee on the map in the history of sports. Olympic champions Wilma Rudolph and Tracy Caulkins are from the Volunteer State. The brightest star in all of Tennessee sports history, however, must be Pat Summitt, an Olympic silver medalist who went on to become the winningest coach in the history of college basketball, a title that includes both genders.
Total score: 50.85
Women's economic and social well-being: #36
Women's health and safety: #38
The University of Missouri School of Medicine was a breeding ground of success for women in the health sciences. The first woman to graduate from the school with a medical degree was Anna B. Searcy in 1900. Five years later, Jane E. Dunaway followed in her footsteps, as did Ruth Seevers and Grace Scholz in 1906, and Lake Brewer in 1908.
Total score: 51.12
Women's economic and social well-being: #38
Women's health and safety: #35
WalletHub ranked Arizona as the #4 worst state in the country for women's equality, but you wouldn't know it by looking at its senators. In the most recent election, Republican Martha McSally ran against Democrat Kyrsten Sinema in a close election that would result in one of them becoming Arizona's first woman U.S. senator in history. Sinema, who is also the only openly bisexual woman in Senate history, won. Then, the governor appointed McSally to replace the late Sen. John McCain, which resulted in women holding both U.S. Senate seats concurrently in a state that previously was the exclusive domain of male senators.
Total score: 51.57
Women's economic and social well-being: #40
Women's health and safety: #31
2018 was the dubbed "year of the woman" for the unprecedented number of women who ran for and were elected to office. Pennsylvania, which had previously been the largest state with an all-male congressional delegation, was one of the states that made it all possible. Although only seven women were elected to Congress in all of Pennsylvania history before 2018, and never more than two at a time, 2018 saw four women elected in the Keystone State.
Total score: 52.39
Women's economic and social well-being: #24
Women's health and safety: #41
In 2018, the state of Kentucky decided to step up its game in terms of memorials honoring the state's notable women. There are currently only a handful of statues dedicated to women in the entire state, and not a single one stands on government property. That, however, is about to change, as the state announced that it will erect in the Kentucky Capitol a six-foot-tall bronze statue dedicated to education pioneer Nettie Bayless Courts Depp.
Total score: 52.49
Women's economic and social well-being: #42
Women's health and safety: #24
In 1869, Wyoming granted women the right to vote a half-century before the 19th Amendment did the same thing on a national level. Not even yet a state, the territory's example proved contagious. Neighboring states soon followed suit and the West became the first region in the country where women voted equally. In 1925, Nellie Tayloe Ross became the first woman governor in U.S. history when she was elected in Wyoming.
Total score: 52.94
Women's economic and social well-being: #31
Women's health and safety: #37
In 1924, Cora Reynolds Anderson became the first woman ever elected to the Michigan House of Representatives and the first and only Native American in any state legislature. The state's female firsts, however, didn't stop there. In 2018, Michigan joined Minnesota in sending the first Muslim women in history to Congress.
Total score: 53.75
Women's economic and social well-being: #35
Women's health and safety: #32
In 1989, Florida Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinen became the first Cuban-American and the first Hispanic woman ever elected to Congress. It was Mary Lou Baker, however, who might be the Florida lawmaker whose work had the biggest impact on women. In 1942 she became only the second woman in history elected to the Florida House of Representatives and quickly introduced the Women's Rights Bill, which would have granted women the right to legally carry on family business while their husbands were away at war. After making a stir by refusing to give up her maiden name, Baker tirelessly lobbied every legislator and successfully got her bill passed.
#30. North Carolina
Total score: 54.89
Women's economic and social well-being: #28
Women's health and safety: #34
In 1587, a little girl named Virginia Dare was born in North Carolina. She was the first English baby born in the New World. A long line of Tarheel women followed, blazing trails for those who would come later. Those women included Tabitha Ann Holten, who became the first woman lawyer in the South after passing the bar exam in 1878, and Beverly Purdue, who became the first woman governor in state history in 2008.
Total score: 56.12
Women's economic and social well-being: #27
Women's health and safety: #29
Ohio is the home state of a remarkable woman of many firsts. Born in 1838, one of 10 children in the frontier town of Homer, Victoria Woodhull went on to become the first woman ever to start a weekly newspaper, the first woman ever to own a Wall Street brokerage firm, and the first woman ever to run for president. The women's rights and suffrage icon ran in 1872 with the Equal Rights Party.
Total score: 56.21
Women's economic and social well-being: #33
Women's health and safety: #25
Kansas gave women the right to vote in city elections in 1877, long before the 19th Amendment granted suffrage in 1920. Fittingly, the first woman mayor in history was elected that year—in Kansas, of course. Susanna Salter won in a landslide in the Quaker town of Argonia at age 27.
Total score: 57.5
Women's economic and social well-being: #30
Women's health and safety: #23
Although WalletHub recently ranked Virginia as the #5 worst state for women's equality, the state is proud to show off its long history of achievements for, and by, women. In 2017, the Commonwealth announced that it would soon become the nation's first state to erect a monument to women's achievements on its state capitol grounds. The monument will feature a glass wall of honor and 12 bronze statues of notable women from various regions and backgrounds in the state.
Total score: 58
Women's economic and social well-being: #21
Women's health and safety: #33
Montana will always have a special role in the history of women's empowerment. Missoula native Jeannette Rankin was the first woman elected to Congress, as well as one of the only suffragists ever to be elected. She also stands out as a pacifist. Rankin was the only member of Congress to vote against U.S. involvement in both World War I and World War II.
Total score: 58.28
Women's economic and social well-being: #32
Women's health and safety: #21
WalletHub recently ranked Utah as the worst state in the country for women's equality. On Nov. 3, 1896, however, the state was at the forefront of equality. The people of Utah that year elected Martha Hughes Cannon, the first woman ever to serve as a U.S. senator.
#24. South Dakota
Total score: 60.38
Women's economic and social well-being: #26
Women's health and safety: #19
South Dakota is tied for first place in terms of the lowest unemployment rate for women in the entire country, but it holds the unfortunate title of being home to the lowest percentage of women-owned businesses in the country. Gladys Shields Pyle was a giant in state politics and the women's rights movement. The daughter of a state attorney general and a famous suffragist, Pyle became the first woman in either party to be elected to the U.S. Senate without having first been appointed to fill a vacancy.
Total score: 61.06
Women's economic and social well-being: #17
Women's health and safety: #30
Indiana is the home state of some of the boldest and most consequential American women in history. Kathleen Flossie Bailey was a civil rights pioneer and Vivian Carter was a recording executive who was instrumental in Motown and the success of the Beatles. Rhoda Coffin was a tireless prison reformer, Margaret Ray Ringenberg achieved fame as an aviator, and Dorothy Stratton became the first commissioned female officer in the U.S. Coast Guard.
Total score: 61.73
Women's economic and social well-being: #25
Women's health and safety: #13
The Mid-Atlantic state of Maryland is the birthplace of some of the most important and famous women in history. Jazz icon Billie Holiday grew up in Baltimore and pioneering nurse Clara Barton's influence was so significant that the American Red Cross is headquartered in Glen Echo, where she spent 15 years working. Juanita Jackson Mitchell was a famous civil rights activist, and Harriet Tubman was born a slave in Dorchester County.
#21. Rhode Island
Total score: 61.87
Women's economic and social well-being: #22
Women's health and safety: #17
Rhode Island women began blazing trails long before America was even a country. Born in 1611, Quaker Mary Dyer worked for freedom of religion in the colonies. In 1660, she was hanged for her beliefs. Born in 1806, Elizabeth Buffum-Chace was a passionate advocate for orphaned children, as well as for women's rights and abolition. Born in 1819, Christiana Carteux Bannister used her network of salons to found the Boston Underground Railroad.
Total score: 63.06
Women's economic and social well-being: #20
Women's health and safety: #18
In 1894, Republicans Carrie C. Holly, Frances Klock, and Clara Cressingham became the first three women ever elected to a state legislature—the Colorado House of Representatives. Today, that same body is one of only two legislative chambers in the country where women lawmakers hold a majority.
Total score: 63.07
Women's economic and social well-being: #23
Women's health and safety: #12
California is the biggest economy in the United States, but one-quarter of the 445 publicly traded companies operating there have no women on their boards of directors. That, however, is about to change. In 2018, Gov. Jerry Brown signed a law that requires all publicly traded companies to include at least one woman on their boards. All companies must comply by the end of 2019.
Total score: 64.05
Women's economic and social well-being: #11
Women's health and safety: #28
Oregon once held the bizarre distinction of appointing a governor who wasn't allowed to vote. Although the male ruling class in the state dealt women's suffragists defeat after defeat through 1908, Carolyn B. Shelton was serving as governor, arguably the most powerful woman in the country. Her story remains largely unknown, but she served for only 48 hours as the result of an accident, an illness, and a scheduling error. Women got the right to vote three years later in Oregon, 11 years later in the country as a whole.
Total score: 64.82
Women's economic and social well-being: #19
Women's health and safety: #14
According to WalletHub, Nebraska is tied for first place in terms of the highest graduation rates for women. In 2016, the state made waves with a monumental achievement for women's progress. That year, Brig. General Wendy Johnson assumed the top leadership position in the Nebraska Air National Guard—the first woman ever to hold that command.
#16. New Jersey
Total score: 66.11
Women's economic and social well-being: #18
Women's health and safety: #6
Shortly after passage of the 19th Amendment, women started making their mark on New Jersey politics. In 1921, the first two women were elected to the New Jersey Assembly, and the first woman mayor was elected in 1925, as was the first U.S. representative to Congress. Wynona Lipman became the first black woman elected to a country freeholder board in 1968, and then in 1972, she became the first black woman to serve in the New Jersey Senate.
#15. District of Columbia
Total score: 66.45
Women's economic and social well-being: #8
Women's health and safety: #26
WalletHub ranked Washington D.C., as the #4 best state for working moms and ranked the District as paying the #1 median wage for women workers in the country, when adjusted for cost of living. In 1919, the Women's City Club of Washington D.C., became the District's first women's club with a meetinghouse. The club would play a foundational role in several progressive movements, including suffrage, civil rights, and home rule.
Total score: 67.27
Women's economic and social well-being: #9
Women's health and safety: #22
In 2018, the state of Washington lost one of its brightest and boldest woman pioneers to cancer. Jeanette Woldseth was 23 when she became the first woman ever hired as a paid firefighter in the state in 1977. She retired as a captain with the Bellevue Fire Department, the same one that hired her, in 2002.
#13. New York
Total score: 67.79
Women's economic and social well-being: #14
Women's health and safety: #10
In 1848, the first women's rights conference was convened in Seneca Falls, N.Y., thanks to the efforts of famed abolitionists like Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, the latter of whom would go on to become the first woman in history to run for the U.S. House of Representatives. At the conference, the women included the vote in their list of demands, which means the Empire State was also the birthplace of the women's suffrage movement. Wallet Hub recently ranked New York the best state for women's equality.
Total score: 67.9
Women's economic and social well-being: #12
Women's health and safety: #16
Delaware is home to many women who changed the world. First State native Stephanie Kwolek was a chemist who invented Kevlar, and Emily Bissell founded the city of Wilmington's first kindergarten. Anti-slavery activist, journalist, author, and lawyer Mary Ann Shad Cary became the first black woman publisher in North America. Margaret Irving Handy was the first woman in Delaware to become a doctor and the state's first pediatrician.
Total score: 69.07
Women's economic and social well-being: #7
Women's health and safety: #20
Carol Mosely Braun is an Illinois Democrat. In 1992, she achieved a major milestone when she became the first woman of color elected to the U.S. Senate. She was previously the first black woman to receive a major-party Senate nomination.
#10. New Hampshire
Total score: 69.1
Women's economic and social well-being: #13
Women's health and safety: #5
According to WalletHub, New Hampshire boasts the lowest homicide rate for women in the country. It also has the lowest percentage of women in poverty and the lowest unemployment rate for women, while also being a state with one of the highest percentages of women voting in presidential elections. As if that weren't enough, it's also the #4 best state to have a baby.
Total score: 69.11
Women's economic and social well-being: #10
Women's health and safety: #9
Iowa was a major player in the so-called Year of the Woman, the name given to the woman-led political movement in 2018. Iowa had been one of only five states that had never sent a woman to represent it in Congress. That year, however, Iowa shed that distinction when it elected two women to the U.S. House of Representatives.
Total score: 69.77
Women's economic and social well-being: #15
Women's health and safety: #4
WalletHub ranked Connecticut as the #5 best place for working moms. In 1919, the 19th Amendment was still a year away from guaranteeing women the right to vote in the United States. That year, Ella Grasso was born, and she would go on to enjoy a long and distinguished career in public service that culminated in her being elected governor of Connecticut in 1974, the first time any state elected a woman to the statehouse "in her own right."
Total score: 71.13
Women's economic and social well-being: #16
Women's health and safety: #1
WalletHub ranked Hawaii as the #5 best state for women's rights. The South Pacific island state, however, came in dead last in terms of median earnings for women workers when adjusted for cost of living. It also came in last in terms of the percentage of women voting in a presidential election.
Total score: 71.31
Women's economic and social well-being: #5
Women's health and safety: #11
WalletHub ranked Maine as the #3 best place for women's equality. The farthest reaches of the Northeast were not immune from the political wave that was the 2018 Year of the Woman. That year, Democrat Janet Mills was elected governor, the first woman in Maine's history to win the highest statewide elective office.
Total score: 71.45
Women's economic and social well-being: #2
Women's health and safety: #15
According to WalletHub, Wisconsin is tied for first place in terms of states with the highest percentage of women high school graduates. In 1998, Tammy Baldwin made state history. That year, Baldwin became the first gay or lesbian person elected to Congress as a non-incumbent. In 2012, she became the first openly gay or lesbian person elected to the U.S. Senate.
#4. North Dakota
Total score: 72.02
Women's economic and social well-being: #4
Women's health and safety: #8
North Dakota holds the distinction of being the first state to elect a woman to statewide office. In 1892, Laura Eisenhuth was elected superintendent of public instruction. At that time the state, which WalletHub recently ranked as the #5 best place to have a baby, only allowed women to vote in school-related matters.
Total score: 72.05
Women's economic and social well-being: #3
Women's health and safety: #7
The best state to have a baby is Vermont, according to WalletHub. It also gave the state the title as the best place for working moms. Vermont is also tied for first place among states with the lowest unemployment rates for women.
Total score: 75.74
Women's economic and social well-being: #6
Women's health and safety: #2
According to WalletHub, Massachusetts is the #2 best state to have a baby. It also ranked Massachusetts as the #3 best state for working moms. Finally, the New England state has the lowest percentage of uninsured women in the country.
Total score: 78.22
Women's economic and social well-being: #1
Women's health and safety: #3
Minnesota holds the distinction of being the single-best state in the country for women, according to WalletHub's rankings. WalletHub also ranked it as the #2 best state for working moms and the #2 best state for women's rights. Still not content, Minnesota earned the title of the #3 best state to have a baby.