Special Report

Best and Worst Cities for Women

Detailed Findings & Methodology

One of the best actions individuals can make to better their life and career is obtain a college education. Greater educational attainment often leads to better jobs and higher salaries. Nationwide, 30.9% of women have at least a bachelor’s degree, compared to 30.3% of men.

Despite greater educational attainment, women earn roughly 80 cents for every dollar men earn. In many U.S. cities, the gender pay gap is far worse. In Idaho Falls, for example, one of the worst metro areas for women, females earn only 53 cents for every dollar men earn, the worst pay gap of any metro area.

The gender pay gap is by no means exclusively a feature of the worst cities for women. In half the best cities for women, the gender pay gap is actually worse than it is nationwide.

For many mothers — mainly because mothers still perform most child care duties — the ability to even join the workforce may be contingent upon their children being able to go to preschool. In addition to being instrumental in childhood development, pre-K programs give parents the opportunity to leave their children somewhere safe during the day. High preschool enrollment rates can be indicative of successful preschool programs and higher shares of working mothers. The worst cities on this list tend to have lower preschool enrollment rates, while the best cities typically have a higher share of 3 and 4-year-olds enrolled in preschool.

To identify the worst U.S. metro areas for women, 24/7 Wall St. created a six part index consisting of various measures of income, educational attainment, health, and environmental factors. The index includes median female earnings as a percent of median male earnings, the share of women with at least a bachelor’s degree, the share of 3 and 4-year olds enrolled in preschool, the uninsured rate among women aged 64 and under, female life expectancy, and the infant mortality rate. Life expectancy came from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, an independent health research center affiliated with the University of Washington. Infant mortality came from the 2017 County Health Rankings & Roadmaps, a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute joint program. All other measures are for 2015 and from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey.

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