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The Status of Women in the States: 2010 State-by-State Rankings


IWPR Study Director Ariane Hegewisch presents findings from our IWPR
occupational wage gap fact sheet at the Equal Pay Day
congressional briefing on April 17, 2012.

By Claudia Williams

The Institute for Women’s Policy Research analyzes the status of women across the United States, recognizing that having reliable local data is of crucial importance to designing relevant public policies.

IWPR reports on the status of women usually examine some or all indicators in five areas that profoundly shape women’s lives: employment and earnings, social and economic autonomy, reproductive rights, health and well-being, and political participation. Based on these indicators, IWPR reports bring attention to women’s contributions to the economy in their local communities, as well as to the multiple challenges they face.

IWPR reports not only provide a comprehensive snapshot of the lives of women and girls in a particular locality, but also disaggregate the data to capture differing experiences by race and ethnicity. IWPR will soon release a report on the status of women and girls in New Haven, and will soon begin analyses for reports on North Carolina and West Virginia.

In addition, IWPR recently released the 2010 state-by-state rankings and data on indicators of women's social and economic status. These new analyses reveal that:

  • -- The status of women living in the Northeast and Pacific West is on average better than the status of women living in the Southeast and several states in the Northern Plains; in every region, the status of white women and is on average better than the status of women of color.


  • -- Women earn the highest salaries in the District of Columbia ($56,127), Maryland ($47,175), and Massachusetts ($46, 213); in contrast, women earn the least in Mississippi ($28,879), Arkansas ($29,148), and West Virginia ($29,651).


  • -- Women are closest to earnings equality with men in the District of Columbia, Vermont, and California with an earnings ratio of 91.4 percent, 84.3 percent, and 83.5 percent, respectively. States with the largest gender wage gap are: Wyoming, where women earn only 64 cents for every dollar men earn, followed by Louisiana and Utah, where the figures are 67 and 69 cents.


  • -- Women’s labor force participation rates are highest in Midwestern states, such as in North Dakota and Minnesota—at 66.6 and 66.4 percent, respectively—and lowest in the South—such as in West Virginia and Alabama, at 49.5 percent and 54.1 percent, respectively.


  • -- Nationally, almost 40 percent of women are employed in managerial or professional occupations and 28 percent among those 25 years and older have at least a four-year college degree. States with rates well above the national average on these indicators are also the states where women have higher earnings.


  • -- Poverty rates vary significantly by state. For example, more than 20 percent of women in Mississippi live in poverty, while only 9 percent of women in New Hampshire do.


  • -- In conclusion, geographic region, as well as race and ethnic backgrounds, continue to shape women’s opportunities.


A close examination of these indicators reveals that women continue advancing in the realms of employment and earnings, but the playing field is still not even, leaving many women and families without economic security. The key to improving the status of women is to promote programs and policies that diminish gender and race-based inequities. IWPR’s research continues to shed light on inequalities—from rates of access to health insurance to rates of business ownership—in order to call attention to the need for improvements in policy.

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