The Worst States For Women

By Kathy Morris - Jan. 10, 2020

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Women may be more highly educated than men, but you couldn’t tell from looking at their bank accounts.

It is 2020, and while times are changing, women in the United States still face challenges their male counterparts don’t. From discrimination to slimmer paychecks and disproportionate share of household tasks, it isn’t easy being a woman in America.

However, the United States is big. From sea to shining sea, there are fifty diverse states with varying qualities of life and unique offerings. No two states are exactly the same. With that thought in mind, we set out to identify the states where it is the hardest to be a woman. The results? Location makes a big difference in the quality of life a woman lives.

We have a list of all fifty states and how they stack up. But first, let’s examine the states where it’s the absolute worst to be a woman.

Worst States To Be A Woman

  1. West Virginia
  2. Louisiana
  3. Oklahoma
  4. Kentucky
  5. Utah
  6. Ohio
  7. Michigan
  8. Indiana
  9. Texas
  10. Alabama

These are the 10 worst states to be a woman. As a whole, these states have the least economic opportunity for and greatest financial disparity between the sexes. Three rust bowl states made the list, showing the area as a whole may be less than kind to women. Overall, however, the top 10 is a fairly diverse list representing many regions.

Your state not in the bottom 10? Scroll to the bottom to see where it landed. Otherwise, you can see how we determined these states and why the top 10 are pretty bad for women.

How We Determined The Worst States For Women

Each state was ranked 1-to-50 in four categories:

  • Percentage Of Women CEOs (Lower is worse)
  • Percentage Of Women In Poverty (Higher is worse)
  • Income Gap Between Male And Female Earners (Higher is worse)
  • Life Expectancy (Lower is worse)

To calculate the income gap between women and men by state, we turned to the Census’ American Community Survey. To get the difference in for all male earners and all female earners, we divided the median female income by the median male income, subtracting the total from 100.

For the percentage of women in poverty, we also used data from the ACS. Poverty rate is based on household income, which includes husbands and other family members. To focus our data solely on women, we elected to look at women living with no relatives. People meeting this criteria (both male and female) tend to be younger and earn less. Consequently, this poverty rating will be higher than typical and does not include married women.

We decided to incorporate the percentage of women CEOs to see the number of women who reach the top. Since women are more likely to promote other women, we thought it was an important look at not only women’s personal achievements, but the opportunity for advancement available. We gathered this data from Discoverorg’s study on women CEOs.

For life expectancy, we turned to the Institute for Health Metrics to gather general data on statewide life expectancy. Life expectancy was incorporated because it can illustrate a variety of underlying factors (health, drug use, suicide, and other conditions.)

The full list of all fifty states scoring in each category is at the bottom. First, let’s examine the top 10 closer to see why they are they the best states for women.

1. West Virginia

west virginia
Wage Gap: 34%
Women In Poverty: 33%
Life Expectancy: 74.8
Women CEOs: 17%

West Virginia is the worst state for women. What earned West Virginia’s this unfavorable rank? Low scores across the board. West Virginian women are more likely to live in poverty than almost any other state and they make .34 cents less for every dollar than their male counterparts. Throw in low life expectancy and it’s easy to see that West Virginian women are struggling.

2. Louisiana

Wage Gap: 38%
Women In Poverty: 35%
Life Expectancy: 75.4
Women CEOs: 21.2%

The bayou state is the 2nd worst state for women. Louisianian women have high poverty, low life expectancy, and generally dismal stats.

3. Oklahoma

Wage Gap: 32%
Women In Poverty: 30%
Life Expectancy: 75.4
Women CEOs: 19%

Everything isn’t great for women in the Sooner State. Oklahoman women might make .06 cents per dollar more than Louisianian women, but high poverty rates and low percentage of female CEOs show that six cents may not be doing a whole lot.

4. Kentucky

Wage Gap: 29%
Women In Poverty: 32%
Life Expectancy: 75
Women CEOs: 18%

Kentucky is the fourth worst state to be a woman. Only 18% of all CEOs are female in the Bluegrass state, while 32% of solo women live in poverty. That’s not so great.

5. Utah

Wage Gap: 45%
Women In Poverty: 30
Life Expectancy: 79.3
Women CEOs: 17.0

Utah’s spot on the list may startle some, as the state is one of the best states for millennials and is known for having a favorable cost of living. However, Utah’s place was guaranteed from having the worst gender gap in the nation. Women have a whopping 45% less median income than men in the Beehive state. Other not so great things for women in Utah? Only 17% of CEOs are female.

6. Ohio

Wage Gap: 33%
Women In Poverty: 27%
Life Expectancy: 76.6
Women CEOs: 20.8%

Ohio is the sixth worst state for women. Ohio gas a significantly better poverty percent than the first five at 27%. However, a low life expectancy and lousy percent of female CEOs mean it’s not all rainbows and sunshine for women in Ohio.

7. Michigan

Wage Gap: 34%
Women In Poverty: 29%
Life Expectancy: 77.6
Women CEOs: 22.8%

At #7, Michigan has 32% female CEOs, a middling number. Yet, Michigan’s wage gap is sixth worst in the nation. Yikes.

8. Indiana

Wage Gap: 35%
Women In Poverty: 27
Life Expectancy: 77
Women CEOs: 23.0

Indiana is right behind Michigan at #8. Indiana is ahead of Michigan in one thing- having a worst wage gap.

9. Texas

Wage Gap: 31%
Women In Poverty: 29
Life Expectancy: 78.5
Women CEOs: 19.7

The Lone Star state isn’t so great for lone women who with away from any family members. They can expect to experience a jaw dropping 31% poverty rate. No doubt this poverty isn’t helped by a less than stellar wage gap and a lack of females in leadership roles.

10. Alabama

Wage Gap: 33%
Women In Poverty: 34%
Life Expectancy: 74.9
Women CEOs: 30%

Alabama is the 10 worst state to be a woman (or the 41st best if you’re a glass half full type of person.) While Alabama may have a higher than average female CEO percentage (30%), that doesn’t seem to lift up the high percentage of impoverished women in this southern state.

Summary On The Worst States For Women

These are the 10 worst states for women. While women face many obstacles nationwide, these states offer worst prospects than most. No state had 50% female CEOs, and most fell far short. However, the difference between Montana at 40% and West Virginia at 17% is significant.

Similarly, while no state had women making near the same median income as men, the difference between first and last place amounts to .25 cents on the dollar. Overall, while we cannot say that West Virginia is the worst state for every individual woman (life is pretty personal, after all), it certainly has some deficiencies that are hurting the women who live there.

Check out the rest of the list to see where you state landed.

Worst States For Women

Rank State Wage Gap Women In Poverty (%) Life Expectancy Female Ceos (%)
1 West Virginia 34% 33 74 17
2 Louisiana 38% 35 75 21
3 Oklahoma 32% 30 75 19
4 Kentucky 29% 32 75 18
5 Utah 45% 30 79 17
6 Ohio 33% 27 76 20
7 Michigan 34% 29 77 22
8 Indiana 35% 27 77 23
9 Texas 31% 29 78 19
9 Alabama 33% 34 74 29
11 Wyoming 40% 31 78 25
12 Mississippi 29% 36 74 28
13 Tennessee 27% 30 76 22
14 Georgia 27% 28 77 22
14 North Dakota 33% 27 78 23
16 Iowa 34% 27 79 21
17 South Carolina 27% 30 76 24
18 Idaho 38% 29 79 26
19 Arkansas 26% 34 75 26
20 South Dakota 29% 26 78 21
21 Missouri 28% 26 77 22
21 Kansas 33% 27 78 24
23 Pennsylvania 31% 26 78 22
24 North Carolina 25% 27 77 22
24 New Mexico 26% 32 77 25
26 Montana 28% 28 76 40
27 Illinois 30% 26 79 23
28 Nebraska 32% 25 79 24
29 Oregon 29% 27 79 23
30 New Jersey 32% 22 80 20
31 California 25% 28 80 21
32 Massachusetts 30% 23 79 20
33 Virginia 30% 25 79 24
34 Florida 21% 27 79 22
35 Nevada 20% 27 77 25
36 Washington 34% 24 79 25
37 Connecticut 31% 24 80 23
37 Wisconsin 32% 25 79 27
39 Maryland 25% 22 78 22
40 Maine 27% 26 78 30
41 Alaska 29% 21 77 33
42 New York 24% 26 80 22
43 New Hampshire 31% 19 79 28
44 Rhode Island 27% 26 79 28
44 Colorado 27% 22 79 23
46 Delaware 24% 25 78 32
47 Minnesota 28% 23 80 24
48 Arizona 23% 24 79 26
49 Hawaii 22% 25 81 28
50 Vermont 24% 24 79 38

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Kathy Morris

Kathy is the head of content at Zippia with a knack for engaging audiences. Prior to joining Zippia, Kathy worked at Gateway Blend growing audiences across diverse brands. She graduated from Troy University with a degree in Social Science Education.

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