The State of Women in America

A 50-State Analysis of How Women Are Faring Across the Nation

CAP examines both the progress made and the challenges remaining for women across the country, reviewing three categories that are critical to women’s overall well-being: economics, leadership, and health.

Women and their families deserve a fair shot so that they can get ahead and not just get by. (AP/John Bazemore)

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The role of women in the United States has changed dramatically over the past few decades. For one, more and more women have taken on new responsibilities outside the home by joining the paid workforce. While women made up only about one-third of the workforce in 1969, women today make up almost half of all workers in the United States. Women are also stepping up to lead the country; a record number of women ran for public office in 2012, and a record-high percentage of women are serving in Congress. In addition to making progress on issues of economics and leadership, women have made progress on health issues, which impact women’s personal well-being, as well as their economic security. Over the past few years, women have been able to end gender discrimination by big insurance companies and gain free contraception coverage because of the Affordable Care Act.

Despite women’s advancements, however, substantial inequalities remain. Although an increasing number of women are either the sole breadwinner for their family or share the role with their partners, women in the United States are paid only 77 cents for every dollar a man makes. The pay gap is even larger for women of color. On average, African American women make 64 cents for every dollar that white men make. While 2012 was a watershed year for women in terms of getting elected to public office, women still comprise only 18.1 percent of Congress, despite making up more than half of the U.S. population. They also face challenges on health issues, as 2012 saw continued conservative efforts to erode women’s ability to make their own decisions about their health and well-being.

A deeper examination shows that disparities for women also exist among states. Women in Vermont, for example, make on average close to 85 cents for every dollar a man makes, while women in Wyoming make only 64 cents—more than 25 percent less than women in Vermont. On leadership, 15 states have no female elected leaders in the House of Representatives or the Senate. Lastly, while less than 10 percent of women in Vermont, Wisconsin, Hawaii, and Massachusetts are uninsured, nearly 25 percent of women in Texas do not have health insurance.

How women are faring across the states

In this report, we examine both the progress made and the challenges remaining for women across the country. We do so by reviewing three categories that are critical to women’s overall well-being: economics, leadership, and health. Within each of those three categories, we analyze multiple factors—36 factors overall. In selecting the factors, we were unable to include every metric available but strove to include a broad array of factors that would help illustrate the multitude of issues facing women. We also included data on women of color in order to show the challenges that different communities face.

Factors examined

Economic security factors

  • Overall wage gap for women
  • Wage gap for African American women
  • Wage gap for Hispanic American women
  • Percentage of total female population that would be impacted by raising the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour
  • Overall poverty rate for women and girls
  • Poverty rate for African American women and girls
  • Poverty rate for Hispanic American women and girls
  • Poverty rate for Asian American women and girls
  • Poverty rate for Native American women and girls
  • Paid family leave laws
  • Temporary disability insurance
  • Paid sick leave
  • Access to early childhood education
  • Spending on early childhood education

Leadership factors

  • Women in Congress
  • Women in elected executive statewide office
  • Women in state legislature
  • Minority women elected to Congress, executive statewide office, and state legislature
  • Overall management gap
  • Management gap for African American women
  • Management gap for Hispanic American women
  • Management gap for Asian American women
  • Management gap for Native American women

Health factors

  • Overall percentage of women uninsured
  • Percentage of African American women uninsured
  • Percentage of Hispanic American women uninsured
  • State position on Medicaid expansion
  • Defunding Planned Parenthood and other providers’ preventative health services
  • Percentage of contraceptive needs met
  • States with forced ultrasound provisions
  • Unconstitutional bans on abortion
  • Restrictive counseling and waiting-period restrictions
  • Targeted regulation of abortion provider, or TRAP, laws
  • Maternal mortality rate
  • Infant mortality rate
  • Rate of availability of obstetrician-gynecologists, or OB-GYNs

We ranked each state on all 36 factors and then arrived at overall rankings in the categories of economics, leadership, and health by taking the averages of how states ranked on the factors within those categories. We then gave each state an overall national ranking, taken from an average of how the states rank across the three categories.

Our analysis determined that on matters of economics, leadership, and health, women, on average, fare the best in Maryland and the worst in Louisiana. More than 22 percent of women in Louisiana are in poverty, compared to 11 percent of women in Maryland. Additionally, taking in all of the leadership factors considered, Maryland ranks first in the nation in terms of women reaching leadership positions in the public and private sector. Meanwhile, Louisiana receives a D- on overall leadership factors.

Table 1 in the PDF details how all 50 states rank on issues of economics, leadership, and health for women based on the 36 factors examined in this report. For a full explanation of our methodology, please see the appendix.

Anna Chu is the Policy Director for the ThinkProgress War Room at American Progress. Charles Posner is the State Communications Assistant for the ThinkProgress War Room.

Get more facts on the state of women in these state-based CAP Action fact sheets:

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Anna Chu

Vice President, Policy and Research

Charles Posner

Policy Manager

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