2015 Status Of Women Report Identifies the States That Are Best — And Worst — When It Comes To Poverty, Opportunity, and Women

It's no secret that women don't have financial equality with men in this country, but it turns out that goes way beyond the gender pay gap. According to the 2015 Status of Women in the States report on poverty and opportunity from the Institute for Women's Policy Research, things aren't good for women on a lot of fronts — including the fact that women are more likely than men to live in poverty in literally every state in the country. That's right. There is no state in the country where your odds of living in poverty because you're a woman.

The report focuses on several important indicators of economic stability and success, including women's access to health insurance, education level, and the number of women who own their own businesses. "Access to quality education and training, health care services, and business networks can help women to thrive in the workforce and achieve economic success," the report explains. "Yet even with access to these resources, many women struggle to achieve financial security and independence."

It turns out that even though women are just as likely to have as much education as men, and somewhat more likely to have health insurance, women still are less likely to own their own business and are more likely to live in poverty. And this trend doesn't just hold true for older generations. Among millennials, 22 percent of millennial women live below the poverty line compared to only 16 percent of millennial men. And even though millennial women are more likely than men to have a bachelor's degree, among millennials who are in debt, women tend to have more.

According to the report, "Multiple factors contribute to women’s higher poverty rate compared with men’s, particularly among single parents with children." However, they note, "Perhaps the most important is lower earnings, due in part to occupational segregation and the gender wage gap. Research indicates that closing the wage gap would significantly reduce poverty."

Still, even though things aren't particularly great anywhere, some states are better than others. So how does the Institute for Women's Policy Research score the states in regards to poverty and opportunity among women? Out of all 50 states and the District of Columbia, here are the five they identify as the best — and the worst.


47. Louisiana

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Louisiana has one of the highest rates of poverty among women — fully 20 percent of women age 18 or over live below the poverty line. Additionally, only 76 percent of women have health insurance and only 23 percent have a bachelor's degree or higher. All told, Louisiana is graded as a D–.

48. Kentucky

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In Kentucky, about 19 percent of adult women live below poverty; only 22 percent of women have bachelor's degrees; and about 75 percent of business are owned by men. Like Louisiana, Kentucky rates a D–.

49. West Virginia

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West Virginia actually does pretty well when it comes to women owning businesses and at making sure women have health insurance, but they also rank dead last when it comes to women with bachelor's degrees — only 19 percent of the women in the state have one. Plus, 19 percent of women live below the poverty line. Overall, West Virginia gets a D– as well.

50. Arkansas

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In Arkansas, only 80 percent of women live above the poverty line, and the state also ranks near the bottom when ti comes to women's health insurance coverage, women's education, and the percentage of business owned by women. Overall, they get an F.

51. Mississippi

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Only 76 percent of women in Mississippi have health insurance, only 21 percent have bachelor's degrees, and only 26 percent of businesses are owned by women. Mississippi also ranks dead last when it comes to women living in poverty — 24 percent of adult women in the state live below the poverty line. Mississippi is graded as an F and comes in last out of the 50 states and the District of Columbia.


5. Hawaii


In Hawaii, 90 percent of women have health insurance, 32 percent have bachelor's degrees, and 31 percent of the state's businesses are owned by women (which still isn't gender parity, but it's getting closer). Best of all, 89 percent of the state's women live above the poverty line. The state gets a B.

4. Connecticut

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88 percent of Connecticut women have health insurance, 37 percent have a bachelor's degree, and 89 percent live above the poverty line. Overall, they score a B.

3. Massachusetts

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Massachusetts might not be the best when it comes to weather, but it does pretty well for women. 40 percent of women have a bachelor's degree, and 29 percent of the businesses in the state are women-owned. Plus only 12 percent of women live below the poverty line. And Massachusetts also ranks number one for women's health coverage — 96 percent have health insurance. The state scores a B+.

2. Maryland

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In Maryland, 88 percent of women have health insurance, and 38 percent have bachelor's degrees. Plus, 32 percent of business in the state are owned by women, and 89 percent of women live above the poverty line. Maryland comes in second nationally and rates a B+.

1. District of Columbia

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Washington DC might be full of male politicians, but it still does pretty good when it comes to women — though part of that might be the number of educated professionals who move to our nation's capital for work, rather than because the city actually has the best policies. Still, the District of Columbia ranks number one in both the percentage of women with bachelor's degrees, and the percentage of businesses that are women owned (53 and 34, respectively). Plus 94 percent of women have health coverage. They don't do so well, though, when it comes to women living below the poverty line — 19 percent. Still, the district got the top score nationally, and rated a grade of A–.

Really, though, it probably says something that not one of our nation's states or the District of Columbia were able to pull off a straight "A" grade. We can do better, people.

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