Best and Worst States for Women: New Georgetown Research Offers Interactive U.S. Index

A new Georgetown University report provides a state-by-state measurement of women’s rights and opportunities in America, measured by indicators like women’s employment, maternal mortality and intimate partner violence.

The Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security (GIWPS) ranked women’s rights and opportunities across 50 states and the District of Columbia, revealing vast differences in the status of women across America. 

At the top of the list is Massachusetts, scoring almost four times better than Louisiana, which ranks last. There are clear regional patterns—as well as important variations within regions.

See how your state scores on this interactive site, designed by Firefli.

The report uses the most comprehensive measurement of women’s rights and opportunities in America, including indicators like women’s employment, maternal mortality and intimate partner violence. It also captures which states have adopted key legal protections that impact women’s well-being. 

“The state in which a woman lives determines, among other things, a woman’s ability to file a workplace sexual harassment claim, her level of protection from an abusive partner and whether she can take paid time off for caregiving,” said Jeni Klugman, managing director of GIWPS and lead author of the report. 

Only 13 states require domestic violence abusers to relinquish firearms, for example.

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Gender inequalities are compounded by racial injustice, according to the Georgetown report. Racial gaps among American women are most prevalent in women’s college completion, maternal mortality and state legislative representation.

In every state, rates of maternal mortality are higher for Black women than white women. Black and Native American women are also two to three times more likely to die of pregnancy-related causes than white women. In New Jersey, maternal mortality rates for Black women are almost quadruple those for white women. The global comparison, where available, represents how outcomes for Black and white women in the U.S. rank against average maternal mortality rates in other nations. 

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Another example is that women of color represent almost one-third of voting-age women, but are not represented at equal rates in state legislatures. As of 2020, there were no Native American women legislators in 37 states and the District of Columbia. There are no Black women legislators in Vermont, Hawaii, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota or Montana.

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A nationally representative survey—commissioned for the Georgetown report by analytic firms YouGov and PerryUndem in August 2020—identified broad support for gender equality among American adults.

Four in five Americans believe that it is important for elected officials to work on issues affecting gender equality. There was also overwhelming support for affordable child care in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis.

At the same time, support levels for actions to advance gender equality were much lower among Republicans and white men. Close to half of all American adults (46 percent) do not think the United States is a global leader in gender equality—compared to 90 percent of Republican men. Republican men were also more likely to say the U.S. has achieved full equality, as pictured below.

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The report argues that the federal government needs to act urgently to advance women’s well-being, to ensure that adequate minimum protections are in place that are currently lacking.

“The federal government must provide fuller legal protections and stronger social safety nets—like paid parental leave and increased minimum wage,” said Melanne Verveer, executive director of GIWPS. “The government must ensure that the intersectional challenges of gender, race and class are recognized and addressed, not denied or overlooked.”

How does your state score?

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About

Georgetown University’s Institute for Women, Peace & Security seeks to promote a more stable, peaceful and just world by focusing on the important role women play in preventing conflict and building peace, growing economies and addressing global threats like climate change and violent extremism. GIWPS engages in rigorous research, hosts global convenings, advances strategic partnerships and nurtures the next generation of leaders.