Photo Credit: Rob Yee
To create iVillage’s 50 Best to Worst States for Women ranking, we took a close look at health, economic well-being, access to affordable childcare, education, female representation in Congress and state legislatures and reproductive rights. The results of our analysis? Our country has a long way to go. See which states were at the top and bottom of the list for each issue and read on to see how we're doing as a nation.
Health and Wellness: One in five women nationwide (19 percent) lack health insurance. Nearly two-thirds of women -- 60 percent -- are overweight or obese. On preventive screenings, 77 percent of American women have had a Pap smear to check for cervical cancer within the last three years and 75 percent of women over 40 have had a mammogram to screen for breast cancer. Only 28 percent of women nationwide eat five servings of fruits and vegetables a day, the amount the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends to support a healthy lifestyle. And 26.5 percent of women do not exercise, putting their cardiovascular health and overall fitness at risk.
Economic Well-Being: Median earnings are $36,551, 21 percent less than men’s median income of $46,500. Nationwide, only 27.6 percent of businesses are women owned and 14.5 percent of women live in poverty. Those numbers are even higher for African-American women (25.6 percent), Hispanic women (25 percent) and single mothers (40.7 percent).
Education: Nearly 28 percent of women age 25 or older have at least a four-year college degree. An additional 10 percent have an associate’s degree. Women are more likely than men to have an associate’s degree or a master’s degree but men are more likely to have professional or doctoral degrees.
Parenting: The federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act makes it a crime to fire or refuse to hire a woman because she is pregnant. Nearly all states (West Virginia excluded) have laws on the books protecting a woman’s right to breastfeed. And the Affordable Care Act, passed in 2010, requires employers to give female employees break time to nurse or pump and a private place, other than a bathroom, to do so. The Family and Medical Leave Act grants parents 12 weeks of unpaid time off after the birth or adoption of a child. Only 12 percent of companies offer paid maternity leave. Childcare costs are a challenge for many Americans: the average annual cost of infant care exceeded 10 percent of median income in more than 40 states.
Reproductive Rights: The United States earned an overall “D” rating from NARAL Pro-Choice America for its abortion rights record. Nearly 90 percent of U.S. counties do not have an abortion provider. Insurance companies are not required to cover abortions except in cases where a woman’s life is in danger. On the plus side, the Title X program provides funding for health care screenings, prenatal care and contraception to women who don’t qualify for Medicaid but are low-income and uninsured.
Female Representation: Politically, women hold only 17 out of 100 seats in the U.S. Senate (17 percent), which is interestingly the same percentage of seats they hold in the House of Representatives: 73 out of 435 seats (16.8 percent). They’re a bit better represented at the state level, holding 23.6 percent of seats in state legislatures. There are only six female governors out of 50 (just 12 percent).
But the most telling statistic might be this one: Of the 43 American presidents, not a single one has been a woman. Imagine how different these numbers will look once that day comes?