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The 10 Worst States for Women

Thomas C. Frohlich

Women made up almost half of the workforce last year, and yet were paid only 77 cents for every dollar men made. This wage gap varies considerably among states. Women in Maryland and Vermont, for example, make 85 cents for every dollar men make, while women in Wyoming and Louisiana make closer to 65 cents.

Income inequality is only one of the challenges women face, as is shown in a recent study by the Center for American Progress (CAP). The study, "The State of Women in America: A 50-State Analysis of How Women Are Faring Across the Nation," examined the challenges facing women throughout the United States by measuring their economic security, prominence in leadership roles and the current status of women’s health issues. 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the states that scored the worst in the country by these measures.

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“Despite how important women are to our national economy and to their families, women are struggling to achieve economic security for themselves and their families and to balance the competing demands for their time,” the CAP notes in its report. This is certainly the case in the 10 worst states for women. Among these, only Oklahoma and Arkansas were awarded scores better than a "C" for economic security by the CAP. And in all but two of the states, the poverty rate for women and girls falls into the bottom half of all states. Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana, all among the bottom five, each had one of the country’s five highest poverty rates for women and girls.

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Women in these states also were less likely to have leadership roles than in the rest of the country. Only five of the 10 had any female representation in Congress. Many of the states were among the nation’s worst for female representation in state legislatures as well. In most of these states, women were less likely than their male peers to hold a private sector management position. In two of the worst states -- South Dakota and Utah -- fewer than one in three management jobs were awarded to a woman.

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All the nation’s worst states for women also were graded poorly for failing to promote women’s health and healthy families. Among the reasons for this are that none of these states had paid family leave, temporary disability insurance or paid sick leave laws. Women in many of these states were among the most likely in the nation to be uninsured. In Texas, one of the 10 worst states, a nation-high 25% of non-elderly women were uninsured last year.

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Relative strength in one measure of how women are faring does not necessarily indicate a good performance elsewhere. For instance, economic security alone does not ensure women will have fair access to leadership roles or the best possible health outcomes. Oklahoma, for example, fared better than most of the country in terms of women’s economic security, but scored dead last for women’s health.

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Based on the Center for American Progress report, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the worst states for women in the nation, as measured by the overall grade each state received. States were ranked according to 36 factors categorized under economic security, leadership roles or women’s and family health. All wage gaps listed were in comparison to white males. All data used were part of CAP’s grading, and at the time the report was written was the most recent data.

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These are the 10 worst states for women.
10. Georgia
> Wage gap: 81 cents per dollar (11th highest)
> Poverty rate, women and girls: 20.6% (7th highest)
> Pct. in state legislature: 22.9% (tied for 22nd lowest)
> Infant mortality rate: 6.4 per 1,000 births (25th highest)

Economic security for women in the state is serious problem. More than one in five women in Georgia were living in poverty in 2012. Of the states rated the worst by CAP, Georgia was the only one without state restrictions targeting abortion providers, or "TRAP" laws. TRAP laws are often so strict that they can shut down most abortion clinics in a state because the requirements placed on them can be higher than other medical facilities performing other outpatient surgeries. According to CAP, this can have a negative impact on women’s overall health. Reproductive health is dismal in the state. For every 100,000 live births in Georgia in 2010, more than 20 mothers died, the second highest maternal mortality rate in the country at the time.

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9. Indiana
> Wage gap: 73 cents per dollar (6th lowest)
> Poverty rate, women and girls: 16.8% (25th highest)
> Pct. in state legislature: 20.7% (17th lowest)
> Infant mortality rate: 7.6 per 1,000 births (6th highest)

As of 2012, women in Indiana earned only about three-quarters of what men made. Despite the pay disparity, the percentage of women serving in public office was slightly better in Indiana than in more than half of all states. But more women in leadership roles does not necessarily translate to state programs supporting women. Indiana is among the states that does not offer pre-kindergarten programs for children under five. This means there is more unpaid labor raising children in the state, and in the United States, this work still tends to be disproportionately carried out by women. The state received a low grade for women’s health issues. As of 2010, Indiana had one of the worst rates of infant mortality in the country.

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8. South Dakota
> Wage gap: 78 cents per dollar (tied for 23rd highest)
> Poverty rate, women and girls: 14.50% (tied for 18th lowest)
> Pct. in state legislature: 22.9% (tied for 22nd lowest)
> Infant mortality rate: 6.9 per 1,000 births (16th highest)

In 2012, women held just 30.7% of management roles in South Dakota, less than in any other state except neighboring North Dakota. Although leadership positions in the state’s private sector were unlikely to be filled by women, South Dakota fared much better electing female representatives to Congress. Last year, it was among the states with the highest percentage of women occupying seats in Congress. Along with two male senators, the state also elected a woman, Kristi Noem, as its sole representative to the House.

7. Arkansas
> Wage gap: 77 cents per dollar (tied for 17th lowest)
> Poverty rate, women and girls: 21.60% (4th highest)
> Pct. in state legislature: 17.0% (10th lowest)
> Infant mortality rate: 7.3 per 1,000 births (10th highest)

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As of 2012, all the elected offices in the Arkansas executive branch of government were occupied by men. Of the state's two senators and four representatives in Congress, none are women. Even in the Arkansas legislature, women are scarce, representing only 17% of seats last year. Women in Arkansas are not finding much success in the private sector either, with fewer than 40% of managerial jobs in the state held by women. Although the state rates poorly for failing to provide women with leadership roles, it actually performed quite well for women’s economic security.

6. Texas
> Wage gap: 79 cents per dollar (tied for 17th highest)
> Poverty rate, women and girls: 19.40% (11th highest)
> Pct. in state legislature: 21.0% (18th lowest)
> Infant mortality rate: 6.1 per 1,000 births (23rd lowest)

Excluding the elderly population, nearly one-quarter of all women in Texas were uninsured as of 2012, the highest rate in the country. This likely contributed to Texas receiving one of the worst ratings from CAP for women’s health issues. The state also imposes heavy restrictions on reproductive rights, which has recently been the source of a well-publicized debate. In July, Governor Rick Perry signed an abortion-limiting bill that has sparked protests and lawsuits filed by groups like Planned Parenthood and the ACLU. Texas rated worse than just over half of all states for women’s economic security. According to the CAP study, if the minimum wage were increased to $10.10 by 2015, more than 1.6 million women in Texas would benefit from the change.
5. Mississippi
> Wage gap: 76 cents per dollar (tied for 11th lowest)
> Poverty rate, women and girls: 26.70% (the highest)
> Pct. in state legislature: 16.1% (5th lowest)
> Infant mortality rate: 9.7 per 1,000 births (the highest)

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As of 2012, Mississippi had the worst female poverty rate in the nation, with more than one in four women and girls living under the poverty line. In addition to its high poverty, Mississippi also received an "F" for women's health. The state had one of the worst infant mortality rates in the country as of 2010, although the Mississippi State Department of Health reported recently that this figure has improved. The state also has one of the country's highest rates of uninsured females and will not participate in the expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. Mississippi residents also must go without any kind of paid family, sick or temporary disability leave, for which there are no state policies.

4. Alabama
> Wage gap: 71 cents per dollar (5th lowest)
> Poverty rate, women and girls: 20.90% (5th highest)
> Pct. in state legislature: 14.3% (4th lowest)
> Infant mortality rate: 8.7 per 1,000 births (2nd highest)

More than one in every five women or girls in Alabama lived below the poverty line as of 2012. According to the CAP study, if the minimum wage were increased to $10.10 by 2015, nearly 300,000 women in Alabama would benefit directly or indirectly. Infant mortality in Alabama was the second highest rate in the nation last year, after Mississippi. This could be due in part to the relatively low availability of medical doctors specializing in pregnancy, labor or birth -- in 2012, there was roughly one obstetrician or gynecologist in the state for every 15,000 women.

3. Oklahoma
> Wage gap: 76 cents per dollar (tied for 11th lowest)
> Poverty rate, women and girls: 18.70% (14th highest)
> Pct. in state legislature: 13.4% (3rd lowest)
> Infant mortality rate: 7.6 per 1,000 births (8th highest)

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The wage gap in Oklahoma was better than most states in the nation last year, and women in the state fared moderately well, based on factors associated with economic security. Relative to the country as a whole, the second-highest percentage of four-year-olds were enrolled in state funded pre-kindergarten programs. With respect to health issues, however, Oklahoma rates as the worst state for women. Women in the state were among the most likely to die from pregnancy-related complications. As of 2010, the infant mortality rate in the state was among the worst in country. Nearly 21% of women in the state were also uninsured, the fifth highest percentage in the nation, and the state will not be expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.

2. Utah
> Wage gap: 70 cents per dollar (tied for 3rd lowest)
> Poverty rate, women and girls: 13.60% (tied for 12th lowest)
> Pct. in state legislature: 16.3% (6th lowest)
> Infant mortality rate: 4.9 per 1,000 births (10th lowest)

Utah is represented in Congress exclusively by men. This is also the case for all of Utah’s elected officials in its executive branch, which includes positions such as the governor, labor commissioner, attorney general and state treasurer. In 2012, women did not fare much better in the private sector, holding just over 30% of management jobs in the state, the third lowest rate nationally. Since management positions tend to have higher wages, the low rate at which females occupy these jobs in the state may be widening the pay gap between men and women. On average, a woman, regardless of race, only made about 70 cents for every $1.00 a man made in Utah in 2012. This was the third worst gap in the country.

1. Louisiana
> Wage gap: 67 cents per dollar (2nd lowest)
> Poverty rate, women and girls: 22.20% (2nd highest)
> Pct. in state legislature: 11.8% (the lowest)
> Infant mortality rate: 7.6 per 1,000 births (7th highest)

Louisiana ranks as the worst state for women in the country. Reflecting its poor record of filling leadership roles with women, just 11.8% of seats in the state legislature were held by women last year, the lowest of any state. Many women also struggled to be economically secure. According to the CAP study, more than 300,000 women in Louisiana stand to benefit from a potential minimum wage increase to $10.10 by 2015. On average, a woman in Louisiana made $0.67 for every $1.00 a man made in 2012, the second worst gap in the country. The mortality rate for both infants and mothers was among the worst in the country in 2010. As of last year, female residents in Louisiana, and especially minority women, were among the most likely Americans to be uninsured.

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