Special Report

The Best and Worst States for Women: Ranking Gender Inequality in America


To determine the worst states for women, 24/7 Wall St. developed a methodology based on the Center for American Progress’ 2013 report, “The State of Women in America.” In its third year, our report utilized the same methodology as last year, making state rankings, and state improvements or declines relative to the 2015 report, directly comparable.

We divided a range of variables into three major categories: economy, leadership, and health. Unless otherwise noted, all data are for 2015. Data in the economy category came from the U.S. Census Bureau and included male and female median earnings for full-time, year-round work as well as high school and bachelor’s educational attainment rates. The percent of children enrolled in state pre-kindergarten and state spending per child enrolled in pre-kindergarten came from the National Institute for Early Education Research.

The leadership category included data on the percent of women in management occupations from the Census. It also included the share of state and federal legislators who are women from the National Conference of State Legislatures and the U.S. House of Representatives Archives, respectively. From the National Governors Association, we also looked at states that currently have female governors. Data on political representation are current as of this writing.

The health section incorporated Census data on the percent of women who were uninsured. Female life expectancy came from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, an independent health research center affiliated with the University of Washington. Additionally, we looked at infant mortality rates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as maternal mortality rates from the National Women’s Law Center. State policies relating to maternity leave, sick days, and time off came from the National Partnership for Women and Families. Data on a state’s decision to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act came from the Department of Health and Human Services.

State rankings on each of these measures were averaged to determine a score for each category. Possible scores ranged from 1 (best) to 50 (worst). The three category scores were averaged to create an indexed value that furnished our final ranking.

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